If you’re feeling guilty about the utter chaos that reigns every night when other parents are winning at the bedtime game, you may as well pile on the shame. New research claims that irregular – or non-existent night routines can lead to making your kid a poorer learner.
(But believe it or not, there’s a happy ending here.)
Scientists at University College London have said that a lack of routine might impair a child’s early development by disrupting the body clock, or through sleep deprivation, which affects the brain’s ability to remember and learn new information – otherwise known as “plasticity”.
Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study reports:
“Early child development has profound influences on health and wellbeing 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 study found that irregular sleep patterns affected girls more than boys but both demonstrated less-than-stellar performance in mental tasks than children who had a set bedtime each night.
The time that children went to bed had little or no effect on their performance in various tests such as basic number skills, reading out word cards, and constructing designs from flat or solid shapes. Yet having no set bedtime often led to lower scores. The greatest drop in test results was seen in girls who had no set bedtime throughout early life, at three, five and seven years old.
Amanda Sacker, professor of lifecourse studies at UCL explains “Age three seems to be where you see the largest effect and that is a concern.
“If a child is having irregular bedtimes at a young age, they’re not synthesising all the information around them at that age, and they’ve got a harder job to do when they are older. It sets them off on a more difficult path”.
It all sounds pretty doom-and-gloom; however, if you feel like you’ve lost control when it’s time for lights-out, don’t despair. It’s totally normal for developmental hiccups to throw your best bed-timing efforts out the window, and the phases, while maddening, aren’t permanent. And if you have a long-standing difficulty with successful routines, it’s easy to start, and never too late. Check out these top tips for getting it together at bedtime.
Full study HERE