Kids Need Regular Bedtimes or Their Brains Turn to Mush (Sort Of)

sleeping girlGet thy kids to bed on time. That's the takeaway from a new British study that says kids' cognitive abilities may be diminished if they don't keep a regular bedtime.

As much as we want them to go to sleep (peace, at last!), however, it's not always easy with older siblings' activities, and especially in the long, lazy days of summer. But all those extra hours up here and late nights there can really do some significant damage to their brainpower it seems.

According to U.S. News, the study followed 11,000 children at ages 3, 5, and 7. When given tests to check math and reading skills and spatial awareness, those who had irregular bedtimes at age 3 scored lower in all three areas than those who went to bed at a consistent time each night.


Results varied from there at older ages, but girls were especially affected by sleep irregularities. At age 7 girls with irregular bedtimes scored lower on all three tests, while boys didn't seem to be affected as significantly. Experts say the effects seem to be cumulative over the years. Study author Amanda Sacker explained:

Early child development has profound influences on health and well-being across the life course. Therefore, reduced or disrupted sleep -- especially if it occurs at key times in development -- could have important impacts on health throughout life.

The paper notes that while the study proved a connection, it "did not prove cause-and-effect". It also did not find that staying up late was detrimental, as long as the hour they go to bed is consistent. Still, it's the best reason I've heard in a long time to get my kids to bed on time each night. I'm pretty consistent anyway -- mostly because I work at night and need the peace and quiet -- but it's good to know that it's paying off in other ways too.

As for getting them to sleep, that can be another story despite the best of intentions, but here are seven great tips to get toddlers to sleep that can help.

Do your kids keep a regular bedtime? What do you make of this study?


Image via Loren Kerns/Flickr

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