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Irregular bedtimes 'sap children's brain power'. Your thoughts on new study findings?

(69 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 09-Jul-13 13:01:49


We've been getting lots of enquiries today, asking what you folk think of the study that's all over the news today, suggesting that lax/irregular bedtime routines can 'blunt young children's minds'.

Apparently, the researchers (writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that seven-year-olds who had no regular bedtime had lower scores for reading and maths - even when other factors, such as a chaotic family life, were taken in account.

So what do you think? Are you surprised? What time do your children go to bed? And how much importance do you place on a regular bedtime once your child is school-age?

Phantomteadrinker Tue 09-Jul-13 17:48:28

But what about parental engagement too? Most parents work and for me a work day (3 days a week) means getting in at 6.30. So by the time dinner and bath are done its almost 8. Ds1 (5)is in bed by 8.30 but I'd much rather do these things, listen to him read, spend time with him and him be ready to go to bed than insist on an unachievable, stressful 7pm bedtime. I completely agree that its routine that makes children happy and settled at school rather than striving for14 hours sleep.

CatsAndTheirPizza Tue 09-Jul-13 18:07:36

Not remotely surprised by this and would be shocked if anyone was. We have a regular bedtime in the school week and don't move that much from that at week-ends/holidays.

Generally our 6 year old gets 10-11 hours, 9 year old gets 10 hours, 11 year old (has never needed much sleep & can't get off to sleep if he goes to bed too early) gets 8-9 hours.

HappyDoll Tue 09-Jul-13 18:12:55

My thoughts? Well duh! Another 'state the blooming obvious' study.

tallulah Tue 09-Jul-13 18:50:06

My 6 yo goes to bed at 7.30. More often than not she is still awake at 10.30. Last night she came down at 11.

She doesn't have a TV or a screen of any kind in her room; she is read to; and most evenings are identical; yet she will not go to sleep.

This new announcement will give my mother another stick to beat us with sad

stealthsquiggle Tue 09-Jul-13 19:18:34

But isn't the whole point that it's about routine and predictability, not "your DC doesn't get 10/11/12 hours, therefore you are a bad parent" confused?

My DC need an inordinate, inconvenient amount of sleep. Even with my best efforts to get them to bed as early as possible, they have to be dragged out of bed in the mornings. I know other DC of similar ages who would be bouncing out of bed at 5:30am having gone to bed at the same time.

chocolatemartini Tue 09-Jul-13 19:23:48

Counter argument here I do think it depends on the age of the child. DS is only 19 months and has always had a flexible bed time. He makes up for shorter nights with longer naps sometimes, no harm done. But by school age I can see a consistent bed time is very important

chocolatemartini Tue 09-Jul-13 19:27:49

Well not so much a counter argument as a criticism of the study and how it has been reported. I hate how these 'studies' give people opportunities to criticise other people's parenting tallulah send your mother my link if she brings it up

stealthsquiggle Tue 09-Jul-13 19:31:32

Happy memories, chocolate. When DS was small and I was briefly unemployed (unintentionally, as opposed to deliberate SAHM) we used to have lovely evenings together because whatever time he went to bed, he would get up 12 hours later. He was as happy with 11pm - 11am as with 7pm - 7am. It's sad in a way that school imposes a different timetable but in reality as soon as we were both working he had some constraints, even though he could nap at nursery.

Sneets Tue 09-Jul-13 19:52:23

Can't say I really agree as depends on child. DS1 age 12, yes it shows on him if it's over a few nights. But DS2 age 7, is one if those who can very sweetly push it to read, talk and generally keep you engaged well past 9:30. We wake him at 7:30am. He is well above average in his end of KS1report this week, and 'a lovely boy' to quote (whilst at school that is blush).
We are all different. So are kids. More research probably needed.

CatsAndTheirPizza Tue 09-Jul-13 20:03:33

Sneets - we are talking averages here - controlled research will have factored in age/individual differences/socio-economic environment etc

Believeitornot Tue 09-Jul-13 20:04:43

People always come along and cite their later sleeping children as proof that the research is wrong. Which fundamentally misunderstands what research is all about.

It's like saying most people don't win the lottery jackpot then someone comes along and says "but I won". That doesn't change the fact that most people don't win <bad analogy>

steppemum Tue 09-Jul-13 20:32:44

The main point of the study said the problem is lack of routine and varied bedtimes, so it really doesn't matter if your dc only needs 8 hours and doesn't go to bed until 11pm, if that is their routine and it is regular

The study was showing that lack of regularity and routine causes a problem and not lack of sleep per se.

As I said up thread, the suggestion (presumably the focus of the next study) is that a movable bedtime disturbs the natural body clock, like jet lag

MNHQ - your OP is misleading, it doesn't reflect the study !

IWillDoItInAMinute Tue 09-Jul-13 20:40:25

This is really interesting as I can totally believe this of my own DC, they need to sleep but I know many Indian parents who keep their DCs up 'til 10pm and they are fine and super bright. Also a Malaysian friends nephews stay up 'til 10.30 they speak fluent mandarin and english and are brilliant at maths confused

IWillDoItInAMinute Tue 09-Jul-13 20:43:06

Thanks for clarifying steppemum !

girliefriend Tue 09-Jul-13 20:59:13

I think its common sense as well, my dd much like me needs a decent amount of sleep (at least 11 hours) to be on top form, anything less than 10 hours and she is very grumpy.

I also think routines are needed so that children feel relaxed and know whats coming/ what to expect. I can imagine if every bedtime was different kids would get very stressed, as would the parents!!

CatsAndTheirPizza Tue 09-Jul-13 21:03:27

But Iwill you have no idea how much better those children would perform if they were to have earlier bedtimes - and your sample size is tiny.

MissBetseyTrotwood Tue 09-Jul-13 21:16:39

Yes, I took that the findings showed that it was the lack of regularity that was a problem too. And that they suspected that the lack of opportunity for circadian rhythms to build was what caused the disruption to development. I don't see how they could have controlled for chaotic family routines; surely a lack of a regular bed time is a chaotic routine?

Both of mine (4 and 6) are in bed by 7.30, with the exact same routine followed every night. Tbh, it is for their benefit and also largely mine. I parent alone a lot of the time and even when DH isn't travelling I do evenings. The bedtime routine lulls us all. I need them to be in bed early so I can clear up and get shipshape for the next day. DS1 doesn't go to sleep immediately; he reads to himself in bed, which is another good habit to get into imo.

Hamwidgeandcheps Tue 09-Jul-13 21:37:35

I'm pleased this study has been done. I preach about bedtimes my my dds. I am v lucky they both sleep like cats but dd1 is a ratbag drama queen on not enough sleep. I have lectured exh extensively about this.....

I am v strict though about going to bed and I've maintained a routine since dd1 was v little. Kids need to sleep!

mumblecrumble Tue 09-Jul-13 21:46:19


<y daughter was great at going to bed till the last few nights. This is mainly as I am s poorly and cannot get upstairs to get on top of it sad

However usually she gets to sleep aaround 8.30, she is 5 and is energetic, active, bright etc so think thios is right for her. But I worry... don;t we all? about foodm sleep etc etc

Agree with it though

It doesn't surprise me at all. I read Marc Weissbluth's book years ago and it's full of similar findings.

Mine are both horrors on not enough sleep, and no matter how late they go to bed, they still wake at the same time everyday. If my routine is chaotic and the bedtime varies everyday, it definitely affects my two kids as well.

I now try and get them to bed by 7.30pm every night without fail. They're 4 & 5 btw if that matters.

In fact my mind is pretty shoddy on no sleep too. My memory goes right out the window on consistent lack of sleep. I'm sure all new Mums remember how tired we felt and how it affected us. I'm sure it's no different for growing kids. We all need sleep. Although there are some people out there who thrive on little, as others say.

Both mine are in School now, one full time, one still in Nursery and their whole day seems to hinge on how well slept they are. Either that or I'm so paranoid about sleep I'm imagining a correlation. I am very retentive about sleep with them grin

TSSDNCOP Tue 09-Jul-13 21:57:46

I have one DC, he is rarely tired to the point of ill temper at bedtime but if his bedtime routine varies he is less attentive and his behaviour is more challenging during the day.

As a consequence, his bedtime is 8pm and he sleeps through generally until at least 7am.

He has a bath, some screen time, milk and a story between 7.20 and 8. He does need to have someone sit in his room or be active nearby until he settles.

Sneets Tue 09-Jul-13 23:03:54

Ha so my 7yr old son getting me to read, chat, generally philosophise about every thing from time travel to angry birds actually is his routine (though it was not put into my agenda!).
I've always tried routine and persisted for 12+ years. My Children often have other ideas! We keep it real.

cory Wed 10-Jul-13 00:07:40

apatchylass Tue 09-Jul-13 16:14:48
"The article I read about this in the Guardian today said it wasn't how late the bed time was, but how regular. Lateness made no difference, but set patterns did."

That's how I read it too. It wasn't about late bedtimes at all but about lack of routine.

Thread title is misleading.

duchesse Wed 10-Jul-13 00:12:03

Indeed, agree the study seemed to be about regularity. Unfortunately imo there are so many variables in the family dynamics that lead to irregular bedtimes, with such a huge variety of factors, that it would be very difficult to work out which ones are at fault.

Remotecontrolduck Wed 10-Jul-13 00:20:08

Very dependent on child I think.

I think the most important thing is to make sure you're able to do right by your own child and understand their needs. No point forcing a child to bed at 7pm when they're resisting and will be up at 5, nor keeping them up til 10 when you know they won't be able to get up. Making sure they have a routine, with a bit of room for flexibility though. I didn't like restrictively strict early bed times for my own DD

British bed times on the whole are a lot earlier than on the continent, yet children are still pretty clever and able to cope. I wonder why this is?

I think this research has it flaws.

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