Lack of routine at bedtime disrupts healthy brain development

Irregular bedtimes affect your child’s ability to learn, according to new sleep research

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Scientists at University College London have said that a lack of routine might impair your child’s early development by disrupting the body clock, or through sleep deprivation, which affects the brain’s ability to remember and learn new information. In essence, going to bed at a different time every night could lead to making your child a poorer learner.

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The research, published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that a lack of routine affects the brain’s “plasticity”, or ability to store and learn new information.

It has been reported in the journal, “Sleep is the price we pay for plasticity on the prior day and the investment needed to allow fresh learning the next day.

“Early child development has profound influences on health and wellbeing 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.”

The study found that irregular sleep patterns affected girls more than boys but both performed worse in mental tasks than children who had a set bedtime each night.

The time that children went to bed had little or no effect on their performance in various tests such as basic number skills, reading out word cards, and constructing designs from flat or solid shapes. But having no set bedtime often led to lower scores. The greatest dip in test results was seen in girls who had no set bedtime throughout early life, at three, five and seven years old.

Amanda Sacker, professor of lifecourse studies at UCL told The Guardian “Age three seems to be where you see the largest effect and that is a concern.

“If a child is having irregular bedtimes at a young age, they’re not synthesising 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”.

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