According to a study by the University College London, late nights and the lack of a regular bedtime results in the poor cognitive development of children. The study was published recently in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The researchers interviewed the parents of 11,000 boys and girls when they were ages three, five and seven years old. At age seven, these children with erratic bedtimes were found to have low scores in math, reading and spatial awareness.
Explains the research group, sleep plays a major role in how the brain learns, remembers and stores information.
Lead researcher Prof. Amanda Sacker says, “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.”
Sacker further discusses that the possible reasons for the irregular bedtimes could be the disarray in the home and family life, so much that the children could not sleep soundly through the night. The participants came from socially disadvantaged backgrounds where they were likely to not have been read to at night, and they probably had a TV set in the bedroom. Sacker also points out how age three may be a crucial time in a child’s mental development.
Adds Sacker, “The take-home message is really that routines really do seem to be important for children.”
Given the study’s findings, parents are highly urged to be strict when it comes to enforcing their child’s bedtime and to begin at an early age in order to promote healthy brain development.