Brain Power of Children is Sapped by Late Nights
Recent research suggests that lax bedtime rules and late nights can blunt the minds of children. The findings on brain power and its correlation to sleep patterns comes from a UK study of more than 11,000 seven-year-olds.
Those children who had no set bedtimes or who went to bed later than 21:0-0 had lower tests scores for math and reading.
The study's authors say lack of sleep may disrupt the natural body rhythms and impair how well the brains learns and retains new information.
The researchers gathered the data on the children in the study at the ages of three, five and seven to interpret how well they were doing with learning and whether thought processes might be related to their sleeping habits.
Professor Amanda Sacker of University College in London, one of the study's authors, noted, "Establishing a good bedtime routine early in childhood probably is best, but it's never too late."
She explained erratic bedtimes were most common in children who were three years of age, when approximately one in five of the children had varying bedtimes.
By the time the children were seven, more than half of them had a regular bedtime between 19:30 and 20:30.
The children who had never had regular bedtimes tended to test far lower than their classmates in terms of test scores for math, spatial awareness and reading.
Interestingly, the impact was more obvious throughout early childhood in girls than in boys, and appeared to have a cumulative effect.
The children with erratic and late bed times came from more socially-disadvantaged backgrounds and were less likely to be read to each night. They also watched more TV, often from a set in their own bedroom.
Even after controlling for such factors, the study still found a link between poorer mental performance and lax bedtimes.
"The take-home message is really that routines do seem to be important for children," Professor Sacker concluded. "While it's likely that social and biological brain development factors are inter-0related in a complex way, in my opinion, for schoolchildren to perform their best, they should all, whatever their background, get a good night's sleep."
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