Regular bedtimes for children 'help brain power'

Inconsistent bedtimes associated with lower reading, maths and spatial awareness scores in study of three year olds

Giving young children regular bedtimes could help boost their brain power, a new study suggests.

Researchers have found that inconsistent bedtimes are linked to children's cognitive development. The authors warned that there could be “knock-on” health effects throughout life.

They wanted to assess whether the time a child went to bed, and the consistency of bed-times, had any impact on their intellectual performance, measured by testing their reading, maths and spatial awareness.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, examined more than 10,000 children who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study - a long-term study of children born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002.

The research was drawn from regular surveys and home visits made when the children were three, five and seven to find out about family routines, including bedtimes.

When children were three, almost one in five had irregular bedtimes but the figure reduced to less than one in 10 when the children were older.

By the age of seven, more than half the children went to bed regularly between 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

Children without regular bedtimes and who were put to bed after 9pm tended to come from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds, the researchers said.

They found that seven-year-old girls who had irregular bedtimes had lower scores on all three aspects of intellect assessed compared to children who went to bed at a regular time. But the effect was not found in boys.

Non-regular bedtimes at age three were associated with lower reading, maths and spatial awareness scores in both boys and girls.

Girls who had never had regular bedtimes at ages three, five and seven had significantly lower reading, maths and spatial awareness scores than girls who had had consistent bedtimes. For boys this was the case for those having non-regular bedtimes at any two ages.

But they also found that irregular bedtimes by the age of five were not associated with poorer brain power in girls or boys at the age of seven.

“Sleep has a crucial and complex role in the maintenance of health and optimal function,” the authors wrote.

“Inconsistent bedtime schedules might impact on markers of cognitive development in two ways, via disruptions to circadian rhythms and/or sleep deprivation and associated effects on brain plasticity.”

They concluded: “We show that a range of social and family environmental factors are related to bedtimes during early childhood.

“Our findings suggest that inconsistent bedtimes, especially at very young ages and/or throughout early childhood, are linked to children's cognitive development.

“Relations between inconsistent bedtimes and aspects of early child development may have knock-on effects for health and broader social outcomes throughout the lifecourse.

“Families are prone to demands on time that might adversely impact on routines important for healthy development in young children. In light of this, policy development is needed to better support families to provide conditions in which young children can flourish.”

Consultant paediatrician Dr Robert Scott-Jupp, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “At first glance, this research might seem to suggest that less sleep makes children less intelligent, however, it is clearly more complicated than that.

“There are a variety of reasons as to why children who aren't as clever might sleep less, such as family income, parents' level of education and mental health with this research confirming a strong link between social disadvantage and late bedtimes.

“Researchers did go to great lengths to try to allow for this statistically yet still found the relationship between lack of sleep and development was apparent - and more so for girls.

“While it's likely that social and biological brain development factors are inter-related in a complex way, in my opinion, for school children to perform their best, they should all, whatever their background, get a good night's sleep.”

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
News
people
Life and Style
tech
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Executive Assistant - London - up to £40,000 + bonus

    £33000 - £40000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assista...

    Social Media Director (Global) - London Bridge/Southwark

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...

    HR Advisor - 6 months FTC Wimbledon, SW London

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - 6 Months Fix...

    IT Manager - Tolworth, Surrey - £40,000

    £37000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Tolworth, Surrey - £40,...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil