(CBS NEWS) -- Children with irregular bedtimes may be more prone to having behavioral problems, according to a new study.
Research published on Oct. 14 in Pediatricsshowed that not going to bed at a regular time each night couldinterrupt a child's natural circadian rhythm, leading to lack of sleep.This in turn could affect how the brain matures and how kids are able tocontrol certain behaviors.
"Not having fixed bedtimes,accompanied by a constant sense of flux, induces a state of body andmind akin to jet lag and this matters for healthy development and dailyfunctioning," study author Yvonne Kelly, a professor at UniversityCollege London Epidemiology & Public Health, said in a press release.
The National Sleep Foundationsuggests that preschoolers between 3 and 5 years old get about 11 to 13hours of sleep a night, while kids up to the age of 12 need around 10to 11 hours of nightly shut-eye.
For the study, researcherslooked at data from 10,230 7-year-olds who were enrolled in the U.K.Millennium Cohort Study. Data was collected from them at ages 3, 5 and7, and their behavior was rated by their mothers and teachers.
Bedtimeproblems were most common at age 3, with one in five children going tobed a different time each night. About 9 percent of kids had irregularbedtimes when they were 5, and only 8.2 percent slept at different timeseach night by the time they turned 7 years old. By age 7, most of thekids regularly went to bed between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Children who had irregular bedtimes or went to bed after 9 p.m. were more likely from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds.
Kidswho went through early childhood without a set bedtime had morehyperactivity, conduct problems, problems with other people their ageand emotional difficulties. Those who were put on a regular schedule hadmore improvements in these behavioral areas.
A previous study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthy showed that young girls with irregular bedtimes were more likely to have lower math, reading and special awareness scores by the age of 7 compared to those who went to bed at the same time each night.
Kellypointed out that her study also found that behavioral problems could beimproved upon if parents enacted a strict bedtime. Kids who siwtched toa set bedtime saw improvements in hteir behavior.
"As itappears the effects of inconsistent bedtimes are reversible, one way totry and prevent this would be for health care providers to check forsleep disruptions as part of routine health care visits," she said."Given the importance of early childhood development on subsequenthealth, there may be knock-on effects across the life course. Therefore,there are clear opportunities for interventions aimed at supportingfamily routines that could have important lifelong impacts."