A new study suggest that kids without a regular bedtime tend to have more behavior problems at home and at school.

Researchers found that when children started going to sleep at a more consistent time, their behavior improved as well. The study leader said, “If you are constantly changing the amounts or sleep you get or the different times you go to bed, it’s likely to mess up your body clock. That has all sorts of impacts on how your body is able to work the following day.”

The study analyzed data on more than 10,000 children. They were part of a long-term study of babies born in the UK from 2000 to 2002 that regularly surveyed parents about sleep and behavioral problems. Children with ADHD and an autism spectrum disorder were not included in the study.

When kids were three years old, close to 20 percent of parents said their child sometimes or never went to bed at a consistent time. That fell to 9 percent among five-year-olds and 8 percent for seven-year-olds.

Children without a regular bedtime tended to score worse on a measure of behavior problems such as acting unhappy, getting into fights and being inconsiderate. The assessment is scored from 0 to 40, with higher scored indicating more problems. For example, children that were seven years old, those without a regular bedtime scored an 8.5, on average, based on their mothers’ reports. That compared to scores between 6.3 and 6.9 for kids who had a consistent bedtime before 9 PM. The researchers said that one to two points represents a small or moderate different, but it’s “meaningful.”

Teachers of seven-year-olds were also asked to report on their behavior. The gave worse scores to children who didn’t have a regular bedtime, as well. However, when children went from having a non-regular bedtime to a regular bedtime, their scores improved on the following surveys. This is encouraging, as it shows that parents can make changes to affect their child’s behavior.

This article is from Reuters. Read the full article here.

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