Kid s bed times linked to brain power
Lulu Chindarsi, 3, and mum Fiona McQuisten. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Ausralian

Fiona McQuisten remembers crying outside her daughter Lulu's bedroom, exasperated at her baby's unwillingness to go to sleep.

"It was a terrible time because she was such a bad sleeper so we finally got in a sleep nurse who helped to develop a routine for bedtime," Ms McQuisten said.

"It didn't happen like magic, we had to learn it, but we haven't looked back."

These days three-year-old Lulu Chindarsi goes to bed like clockwork, usually spot on at 7pm, and there are few tears or tantrums.

She gets a 15-minute warning bedtime is coming, and after a bathroom stop her mother reads to her and sings a nursery rhyme before lights out.

Ms McQuisten is not surprised by the results from a major British study released this week, which link regular bedtimes with brainpower and knock-on health benefits throughout life.

According to the study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, going to bed at different times each night in early childhood seems to curb children's brainpower.

Researchers tracked more than 11,000 seven-year-olds as part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, finding irregular bedtimes were most common at the age of three, when one in five children went to bed at varying times.

By age seven, more than half the children went to bed regularly between 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

It found children whose bedtimes were irregular or who went to bed after 9pm tended to come from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

Irregular bedtimes at age three were linked to lower scores in reading and maths and spatial awareness in boys and girls, suggesting that three could be a sensitive age for cognitive development. The researchers said irregular bedtimes could disrupt natural body rhythms and cause sleep deprivation, thereby undermining the plasticity of the brain and the ability to acquire and retain information.

Ms McQuisten said the results made sense.

"Children who don't have a routine probably aren't as alert for learning," she said.

The West Australian

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