J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2012-202024
  • Research report

Time for bed: associations with cognitive performance in 7-year-old children: a longitudinal population-based study

Press Release
  1. Amanda Sacker
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Yvonne Kelly, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK, y.kelly{at}
  • Received 4 October 2012
  • Revised 9 January 2013
  • Accepted 29 May 2013
  • Published Online First 8 July 2013


Background Little is known about the links between the time that young children go to bed and their cognitive development. In this paper we seek to examine whether bedtimes in early childhood are related to cognitive test scores in 7-year-olds.

Methods We examined data on bedtimes and cognitive test (z-scores) for reading, maths and spatial abilities for 11 178 7-year-old children from the UK Millennium Cohort Study.

Results At age 7, not having a regular bedtime was related to lower cognitive test scores in girls: reading (β: −0.22), maths (β: −0.26) and spatial (β: −0.15), but not for boys. Non-regular bedtimes at age 3 were independently associated, in girls and boys, with lower reading (β: −0.10, −0.20), maths (β: −0.16, −0.11) and spatial (β: −0.13, −0.16) scores. Cumulative relationships were apparent. Girls who never had regular bedtimes at ages 3, 5 and 7 had significantly lower reading (β: −0.36), maths (β: −0.51) and spatial (β: −0.40) scores, while for boys this was the case for those having non-regular bedtimes at any two ages (3, 5 or 7 years): reading (β: −0.28), maths (β: −0.22) and spatial (β: −0.26) scores. In boys having non-regular bedtimes at all three ages (3, 5 and 7 years) were non-significantly related to lower reading, maths and spatial scores.

Conclusions The consistent nature of bedtimes during early childhood is related to cognitive performance. Given the importance of early child development, there may be knock on effects for health throughout life.

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