Kids Behaving Badly? Erratic Bedtimes May Be Why.

Sleep soundly, sweet child.  Alas, bedtime can be more like a war than a poetic moment between you and your kids.  First Lady of Sleep Cindy Bressler reviews some of the latest findings from the United Kingdom!


A recent study by experts at University College London (UCL) confirmed what most parents know (but don’t always do):  establish a bedtime and stick with it.

The UCL study followed 10,000 children at the ages of three, five and seven and found that adhering to a consistent bedtime really does matter.

According to the UCL study, children who experienced erratic bedtimes throughout childhood exhibited progressively worse behavior, including hyperactivity, repetitive bad behavior, emotional difficulties and problems with peers.  Apparently, inconsistent bedtimes may also result in the mind and body experiencing feelings similar to those occurring with jet lag.

The good news is that the study found that these problems can often be reversed by putting children to sleep at a consistent time each night.

We spoke with baby and child sleep coach Brooke Nalle about the findings of the UCL study.  According to Ms. Nalle, establishing healthy sleep routines is critical but not always easy.  With respect to infant and baby sleep, Ms. Nalle believes that it’s important to be flexible with bedtime.  This means that some days a baby may go to sleep at 7pm while other days she may go to sleep at 8pm, depending upon the time and duration of the naps she took during the day.  Ms. Nalle believes that when children stop napping during the day, usually around age 3, it is extremely important to provide a set bedtime and clear expectations for behavior.  Limit setting at this age helps children feel safe at bedtime and become better sleepers.

Many working parents face the dilemma between adhering to a consistent bedtime and spending some extra time with their children in the evening.  We’ve been there and understand the temptation to read that one extra book or sing that one special song.  In the moment, it’s often very hard to pull back and remember the long-term value of a firm bedtime.  Try to be strong.  Both you and your child will be better off the next morning.