Late nights 'sap children's brain power'

Sleepy boy Late nights may have knock-on effects

Related Stories

Late nights and lax bedtime routines can blunt young children's minds, research suggests.

The findings on sleep patterns and brain power come from a UK study of more than 11,000 seven-year-olds.

Youngsters who had no regular bedtime or who went to bed later than 21:00 had lower scores for reading and maths.

Lack of sleep may disrupt natural body rhythms and impair how well the brain learns new information say the study authors.

They gathered data on the children at the ages of three, five and then seven to find out how well they were doing with their learning and whether this might be related to their sleeping habits.

Start Quote

Establishing a good bedtime routine early in childhood is probably best, but it's never too late”

End Quote Study author Prof Sacker

Erratic bedtimes were most common at the age of three, when around one in five of the children went to bed at varying times.

By the age of seven, more than half the children had a regular bedtime of between 19:30 and 20:30.

Overall, children who had never had regular bedtimes tended to fare worse than their peers in terms of test scores for reading, maths and spatial awareness.

The impact was more obvious throughout early childhood in girls than in boys and appeared to be cumulative.

The researchers, led by Prof Amanda Sacker from University College London, said it was possible that inconsistent bedtimes were a reflection of chaotic family settings and it was this, rather than disrupted sleep, that had an impact on cognitive performance in children.

"We tried to take these things into account," said Prof Sacker.

The children with late and erratic bedtimes came from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds and were less likely to be read to each night and, generally, watched more TV - often on a set in their own bedroom.

After controlling for such factors, the link between poorer mental performance and lax bedtimes remained.

The findings are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Prof Sacker said: "The take-home message is really that routines really do seem to be important for children.

"Establishing a good bedtime routine early in childhood is probably best, but it's never too late."

She said there was no evidence that putting children to bed much earlier than 19:30 added anything in terms of brain power.

Dr Robert Scott-Jupp of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: "At first glance, this research might seem to suggest that less sleep makes children less intelligent, however, it is clearly more complicated than that.

"While it's likely that social and biological brain development factors are inter-related in a complex way, in my opinion, for schoolchildren to perform their best, they should all, whatever their background, get a good night's sleep."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 230.


    LOL!!!!!!!. . . . . . .Thats more like it! So fed up with the stuffy up your own backside 'i'm such a fab parent and make no mistakes' comments. . . . . .Yours is like a breath of fresh air. Love the humour. . . . . .Thanks :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I don't no where this lack of control came from, it's like they're afraid their kids won't like them if they were given rules. Then they wonder why their child looks and acts like a pale black eyed zombie the next day!
    I found it funny at the time that Little Britain became famous in primary schools, so how did they all get to see that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    @215 Hundedacke and @212 HFT ....usually I find myself shouting at HYS but this morning I found myself laughing...thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Heer's a thought: people of all ages are all different. Some need a lot of sleep, some don't seem to. Some are good at some things, others are good at different things.

    Whenever anything is published with the words "a survey says" or "research suggests" you know there's a hidden agenda - social engineering, seeking funding or both are the usual culprits.

    Anything interesting going on out there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    "177. Tony Martin
    We humans are very simple, our bodies ONLY GROW and REPAIR themselves whilst they are ASLEEP............

    Lack of sleep = slow growth and slow repair. Your choice."

    That's what my mum used to say. I didn't believe her and took a torch to bed to read for hours.

    Now I'm only 4ft 10in - the shortest by *miles* of my taller than average family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    So - do we conclude that our current crop of politicians got zero sleep during their childhoods?

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    As a child I slept less than the books said I should and as an adult I still do. My parents accepted that: but imposed a fixed routine, obviously varying from shcoll-year to school-year and relaxed at weekends, to make sure I got the sleep I needed and was alert for school. If you don't do that don't blame others if your children don't do well. Bed: TV off; computer off; and no arguments about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    My children have ALWAYS had, from being tiny babies, the same bedtime routine. It starts with wash and PJ's at 7pm, quiet time with biscuits and milk, clean teeth, have story sleep at 8pm. They all sleep well and are all doing well at school. Not only is it essential for them but also for parents who need quality time together regularly too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    This research doesn't reveal anything new. We all know that a bedtime routine, plenty of sleep, a healthy and varied diet and a lot of love will give a child the very best start in life. It's a shame that not all parents make the effort to follow these steps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    You needed to survey 11,000 children to discover this OBVIOUS fact?

    It's interesting to see how many 'bad parents' are here trying to justify their absence of discipline when it comes to bedtime - I bet these are the same parents who want to lock down the internet because they cannot control the content their child views on the equipment THEY GAVE THEM

    Like children themselves...

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    @ 212

    prayer list:
    "sorry we abused your kids then tried to cover it up, but please give us more of you money"
    "you are all to much about the money, you should be more like us (but without our billions in land and assets)"
    "we dont like women, but dont worry we are modern and for the modern world"

    all very good for the next generation....

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Regular bedtimes before 9pm help parents brain power too!
    Not enjoying teenager staying up late now as I still want my kids in bed before me, but wish I was in bed by 10.
    Am I just getting old?

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    As a teacher and a parent I know that children need routine in all areas of their lives. It should come as no surprise that after a poor sleep children cannot learn as well - think of how you feel as an adult when you are tired.

    The other benefit of bed time routine is more time for you and your other half to spend the quality time YOU need to be good parents the next day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    When I was a child, I remember having to be in bed by 7. . .. .The routine was tea at 5, bath by 6.30, bedtime story, then sleep. . .I loved Friday's at Grans because we used to stay up until the little white dot disappeared on the TV. Mum was a housewife, dad was a quantity surveyor for Bovis. It's a bit more difficult to have such a routine with both parents having to work, especially shift work

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    I have to say that quite many mothers can be described as" No Job,No work at home, No good cooking/no healthy food for children, Just a lot of chit-chat over Iphones about nothing and much time spent on making good impression and appearances in front of other similar mothers, Idle, vain and lazy,with poor judgement but a lot of overconfidence"

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    @211.HFT "@ 192 I doff my hat sir, that is an amazing response!"

    What a delightfully wel lbrought up person you must be. Thank you. It was Geoffrey's construct but it was Tamsin that translated it from the Mayan hieroglyphics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    non article saps my brain power

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    @212. Praise Him
    Bedtime prayers for children is the best way to settle them and be assured of a good nights sleep.

    They will wake up bright, early and enriched and ready for breakfast and our morning prayer.
    Do you have morning prayers before, during or after breakfast?

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Bedtime prayers for children is the best way to settle them and be assured of a good nights sleep.

    They will wake up bright, early and enriched and ready for breakfast and our morning prayer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    @ 192

    I doff my hat sir, that is an amazing response!


Page 10 of 21


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.