Regular bedtime important for cognitive development of children

Early child development has profound influences on health and well-being across the life course.

When I was a little girl I used to get so mad when my mom made us go to bed before it got really dark. What was she thinking! There were lightning bugs to catch and shows on TV to watch!

But by the time I had my own children, sadly for them, I had adopted the same rule. It was unusual for my girls to be up past 9 p.m. Sometimes that was as much for me as it was for them.

Now, however, there’s research that shows my mom and I were onto something. A multidisciplinary research project in the United Kingdom found a regular bedtime may be important for the cognitive development of young children.

In this study, more than 11,000 children were followed from birth to age 7. Their parents were contacted when the children were 3, 5 and 7. Those children, especially girls, who did not have a regular bedtime at age 7 had slightly but significantly lower scores for reading, math and spatial abilities. (Spatial abilities relate to understanding visual images and objects.) The children who throughout those first seven years never had a regular bedtime scored even worse, showing that the effects appeared to “accumulate.”

The researchers stated, “Early child development has profound influences on health and well-being 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.”

I know that sometimes it’s impossible to get everybody on a regular sleep schedule. This study, though, shows the importance of a routine in a child’s life and how it can affect their future. For more on this study go to


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