Does your child have a regular bedtime?

My first blog post read of the day was over at Boo, Roo and Tigger Too this morning… Routines for children – Necessary or unnecessary? Where I left a comment agreeing with Sarah that routines work well for me with my child.

Then lo, I heard on the news that the results of a study on regular bedtimes for children have just been released. Now, in my book this is a bit ‘go figure’, but the stats reveal that a lack bedtime routine – i.e. what time a child goes to bed – has an impact on their development and ability to learn.

Stats of new study reveal that irregular bedtimes affect children’s brains

The impact of a lack of routine was found to be most striking in three year olds. There was apparently a greater impact seen on girls than boys in the study, but both sexes did worse on mental tasks such as reading, maths and spatial skills than children with a set bedtime. It is also interesting to note that the effects are cumulative over a child’s life. You can read details of the study itself on the BMJ – Time for bed: associations with cognitive performance in 7 year old children: a longitudinal population based study.

I’m not surprised that the effect is so striking in three year olds. I marvel at how fast and furiously my three year old is developing. How her vocabulary is expanding, how curious she is to know everything about everything. But the difference in temperament and ability to deal with what life has to bring is marked in Ma Puce if she’s had a late night or two.

Ma Puce started life with a routine – or very soon after – based around feeding and sleeping. At first it was a three hour routine and as she grew it shifted to the four hour 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm plus dream feed caper. The hours forever engrained on my brain.

She now has a set bedtime of 7pm on week days. We aren’t so strict at the weekends, within reason and there will be the very occasional late night in the week, but in general her bedtime is set in stone. And it works. She has always been a good sleeper, not perfect, but very good. And she’s a child of few tantrums – despite what anyone hearing me read my A Thoroughly Middle Class Tantrum KeyNote blog post at BritMums Live may be forgiven for thinking!

Mind you, a really interesting finding by the study, is that the hour that a child is put to bed doesn’t seem to be as important as bedtime being regular. Though I’m sure the amount of sleep a child gets is important, I can buy into this. I know how I feel if I get out of sync. Not that I live my life like an automaton, but life feels a little precarious without the anchors of routine.

A set bedtime for children in a hectic modern world?

But what to do in the modern world, where so many of us lead our lives at break neck speed? I know I am lucky enough to have had the luxury of time with my child, to get her into a routine. I was able to be a SAHM for the first two and a half years of her life and I’m now at WAHM, so though life is more of a juggling act, I’m able to run things my way.

What are your thoughts on the importance of routine in your child’s life? Particularly a set bedtime routine? Is it something you are religious about or do you find that it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference for your child?