Regular Bedtimes Are Better for Young Minds
BY Elizabeth Landau | 8/2/2013, 1:42 p.m.
The study used a large group of participants but still only draws correlations, not causes. It is not proof that irregular sleep is a direct driver of lower test scores.
Also, information about bedtimes came from parents’ self-reporting, and were not independently verified.
Researchers also did not assess the length of sleep that the children typically had. Parents reported on what time their children went to bed or whether there was no regular bedtime, but did no state exactly how much sleep they received.
The answer to the questions of exactly what represents a “regular” bedtime – is it okay to vary lights-out by an hour? A half an hour? – are still unknown.
There are a few possible explanations for the observations in the study. One is that children with an irregular bedtime may not be getting good quality sleep. Also, the body’s circadian rhythms can be disrupted when a person doesn’t have consistent sleep schedules.
Each day, as environmental stimuli influence changes in the brain, we need sleep to allow fresh learning for the day to come, according to the study. Cognitive impairment and lack of concentration are two possible consequences of limited or disrupted sleep. Given the importance of childhood development, study authors say, low-quality sleep in this critical period could have long-term healthy effects.
The study supports other research showing that adults also benefit from having consistent bedtimes.
“It not only helps with what’s gone on the day before, but it also sets you in good stead for the day to come,” Sacker said.
That makes it worth finding a consistent time to tuck in the little ones – and yourself.