The brain power of children may be adversely affected if they go to bed at different times every night, research has found.
Going to bed at different times every night throughout early childhood may disrupt healthy brain development and learning, finds a large, long term study
Given the importance of early childhood development on subsequent health, there may be knock-on effects across the life course, suggest the authors.
The authors examined data on bedtimes and cognitive test (z-scores) for reading, maths and spatial abilities for 11 178 7-year-old children from the UK Millennium Cohort Study.
The impact of irregular bedtimes seemed to be cumulative.
The authors point out that irregular bedtimes could disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, so undermining the plasticity of the brain and the ability to acquire and retain information.
"Sleep is the price we pay for plasticity on the prior day and the investment needed to allow learning fresh the next day," they write. And they add: "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 above story is on the July 8, 2013 news release by the BMJ-British Medical Journal,
The research has been published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health:
Kelly Y, Kelly J, Sacker A. Time for bed: associations with cognitive performance in 7-year-old children: a longitudinal population-based study. J Epidemiol Community Health, 2013; DOI: 10.1136/jech-2012-202024