People are often quick to blame poor parenting for childhood misbehavior, but irregular bedtimes may be the culprit for many families.
Complaining about “kids these days” is a pastime going back hundreds, even thousands, of years. However, there is evidence that modern children have more behavioral problems than in previous generations. While many blame modern parenting strategies, increased screen time and other factors for the uptick in poor childhood behavior, a new study suggests that irregular bedtimes may be partly to blame.
Bedtimes in Modern Families
Modern people have a hard time getting the sleep they need to be successful. Modern children are no exception. People struggle to get the right amount of sleep and also to keep regular bedtimes, which are important to maintaining healthy circadian rhythms. A recent study examined whether the rise in behavioral problems could be due to a decline in regular bedtimes.
How Important Is Bedtime?
Children who lack a regular bedtime experience a form of jet lag in which they lack a firm circadian rhythm and can have cognitive or psychological issues as a result. This can lead to lower performance in school, behavioral problems and even symptoms of hyperactivity. Children who are suffering from this form of “jet lag” have a harder time regulating their behavior, which leads to acting out and in extreme cases, even violent behavior towards peers.
Are Irregular Bedtimes to Blame?
One in five children don’t have a regular, set bedtime. These children can experience dire consequences, beyond simply needing a nap. In a study published in Pediatrics, these children were found to have a harder time resolving conflict with peers, lower emotional control and other behavioral patterns that are associated with general behavioral problems. In addition to creating issues with behavior, sleep disruptions can have long-term consequences. These kids may grow up viewing themselves as a problem; they often miss out on learning valuable concepts due to classroom disruptions. In addition to issues with self-image and learning, they also may suffer from health issues throughout their lifespan.
Learning Good Lifelong Sleep Habits
Just as parents teach good habits of all kinds, it is important that they teach children good sleeping habits for long-term health. Set a firm bedtime and stick to it whenever possible. Turn off all electronics and screens so the child can begin “winding down” about a half hour before bedtime. Many children benefit from having an established bedtime routine, which helps them to begin mentally and physically preparing for sleep. Keeping children’s rooms free of evening distractions can also help. If children struggle to fall asleep even with these measures, talk to their doctor about melatonin supplementation and other measures that can help them get the quality sleep they need.
Sleep affects almost every area of our lives, so it is no surprise that it can affect children’s behavior. When children suffer from behavioral issues, it is important to take a holistic approach that focuses on meeting their needs and helping them to learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime.