A new study examined the bedtimes of young children in “fragile families.” It presents the latest findings from the ongoing Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.
What is a fragile family? The researchers use this term for unmarried parents and their children; these families are at greater risk of breaking up and living in poverty than more traditional families.
The study involved 3,217 children who were 3 years of age; all of them were born in large U.S. cities. The presence, time and consistency of bedtime routines were measured by parent report.
Results show that more than 80 percent of the children had a bedtime; but this bedtime was enforced for only two-thirds of the children. And only about half of these children went to bed before 9 p.m., reports CNN.
The study found that black and Hispanic children had later bedtimes than white children; they also had reduced odds of using regular bedtimes and bedtime routines.
Bedtime routines were less common in larger families and poor families; mothers with a lower level of education also were less likely to practice a bedtime routine with their young children.
The authors suggest that children who lack a bedtime and bedtime routine may fail to get enough sleep; the quality of their sleep also may be poor. This can increase their risk for behavioral and cognitive problems.
"What we find is that disadvantaged populations or lower-education populations have worse health outcomes,” lead author Lauren Hale, PhD, told CNN. “And it turns out they have worse sleep problems. Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development."
In July the Sleep Education Blog reported that children who go to bed after 9 p.m. take longer to fall asleep; they also have a shorter total sleep time.
Another recent study showed that a simple, nightly bedtime routine helps young children sleep better.
On Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle published a review of the new book NurtureShock. One chapter of the book describes how sleep loss is affecting child development. You can read and comment on this chapter online.
Learn more about sleep and children on SleepEducation.com.