Regular bedtime 'brain boost'

Giving young children regular bedtimes could help boost their brain power, a new study suggests. Girls in particular without regular bedtimes tended to have lower scores in reading, maths and spatial awareness.

Parents urged to set regular bedtimes

Parents are being urged to set regular bedtimes by researchers who have traced a link between inconsistent sleeping patterns in young children and limited cognitive brain function.

The authors of the Millennium Cohort study, a long-term research project examining more than 10,000 children, said:

Sleep has a crucial and complex role in the maintenance of health and optimal function. 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.

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.

Read: Bedtime routine 'helps boost brain power'

Inconsistent bedtimes linked to low intellect

New research shows that children who did not go to bed at a consistent time have lower intellectual ability, as measured in reading, maths and spatial awareness skills.

The children were tested at different ages, with different outcomes detected at each stage of development:

  • At age 3, non regular bedtimes were linked with lower reading, maths and spatial awareness scores for both boys and girls
  • At age 7, girls with non regular bedtimes had lower scores on all three aspects of intellect assessed
  • Children without regular bedtimes and who were put to bed after 9pm tended to come from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds

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Bedtime routine 'helps boost brain power'

Little girl sleeping
Researchers found that girls who had irregular bedtimes performed worse in maths, reading and spatial awareness tests. Credit: Patrick Pleul/DPA/Press Association Images

Giving young children regular bedtimes could help improve their brain function, new research suggests.

In a study of more than 10,000 children over ten years, scientists found that inconsistent bedtimes are linked to children's cognitive development and are warned there could be "knock-on" health effects throughout life.