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The New Case for Bedtime

Study shows new benefits to a regular bedtime
Photograph by Getty Images

Every parent knows a regular bedtime is a good thing for all parties involved. It gets the kids into a routine, it gives you time to actually do things after putting them down ... everybody wins. But a new study suggests it's got one other big perk, too: It may lead to better behaved children in the long run. (Score!)

In the British-run study, researchers interviewed mothers when their children were 3, 5 and 7, asking them about the patterns of their bedtime routine. They then completed questionnaires about any behavioral issues the kids may be displaying. And those same questionnaires were put to the kids' teachers, too.

The results? First, they found that almost 20 percent of the 3-year-olds in the study had no regular bedtime at all, compared to 9.1 percent of 5-year-olds and 8.2 percent of 7-year-olds. Scientists even took into account varying social, economic and parental behaviors, but all in all, they found that kids with a regular bedtime had fewer behavioral problems. And no, it didn't matter whether those bedtimes were early or late. What's more, the longer a kid's bedtime routine remained out of whack, the bigger the problems with them were.

But if you're sitting there thinking your 4-year-old's nightly refusals to get to sleep are going to lead to some nightmarish behavioral problems later on, don't get too worried just yet. The study also found that 3- and 5-year-olds with irregular bedtimes and behavioral problems made pretty big improvements if they got their bedtime routine back on track by 7.

Of course, a good bedtime is only one piece of the puzzle. “Getting kids into a regular bedtime routine does appear to have important impacts on behavioral development," says Yvonne Kelly, a professor of lifecourse epidemiology at University College London, and one of the study's authors, to the New York Times. "But there are lots of things that have beneficial effects. Having a regular bedtime is only one of them.”

What's your child's bedtime routine like?

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