Kids Perform Better In School With Regular Bedtimes
July 9, 2013

Kids Perform Better In School With Regular Bedtimes

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

The importance of a daily and fairly rigid schedule has been lauded by many seasoned parents, bestowing upon younger parents the bounty of their hard won wisdom. While parents may have only seen the anecdotal benefits of a regularly scheduled bedtime, a new sleep study finds sticking to this routine and getting plenty of sleep translates to better test scores in math and reading.

The study, performed in the UK, followed more than 11,000 British seven-year-olds and found those with no scheduled bedtime or those who went to bed too late in the evening did not perform in school as well as their peers. Boys and girls were affected differently from irregular or lack of sleep, but both had the same general outcome. Furthermore, this University College of London (UCL) study finds of all the age groups observed in this research, three-year-olds are least likely to adhere to a strict bedtime, a point many parents of these children are likely to readily agree with.

The results of this study are now published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

According to the authors, children who don't have regularly scheduled bedtimes or who go to bed after 9:00 PM have their body rhythms disrupted, resulting in lower test scores. They gathered data from the seven-year-olds, each of whom was part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). This long-term study followed children who were born between September 2000 and January 2002 and made home visits to see these children when they were three, five and seven years old. During these visits, researchers asked the parents about regimented bedtimes, schedules and family routines.

With the surveys complete, the researchers noticed something straight away that concerned them: three-year-olds were less likely to go to bed at the same time each night, causing the researchers to worry about the future implications in these children.

"Age three seems to be where you see the largest effect and that is a concern," said Amanda Sacker, professor of lifecourse studies at UCL in an interview with The Guardian's Ian Sample.

"If a child is having irregular bedtimes at a young age, they're not synthesizing 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."

By age seven, this irregularity had mostly disappeared as more than half of the seven-year-olds went to bed by 7:30 and 8:30 PM every night.

Though putting children to sleep past 11:00 PM or so could lead to poor test scores, the UCL study mostly took issue with erratic bedtimes. When given standard number skill, reading and spatial tests, children who went to bed at a set time every evening scored higher. Those children who went to bed at different times throughout the week had lower scores in these tests.

According to The Guardian, girls without set bedtimes at age three, five and seven saw the lowest dip in test scores. The same can be said of boys who didn't have a set bedtime at two of the three ages.

"The take-home message is really that routines really do seem to be important for children," said Prof. Sacker in a statement to the BBC. "Establishing a good bedtime routine early in childhood is probably best, but it's never too late."