TAMPA - Natalie Preston-Washington is like many working moms. With a full time job and an hour commute to and from work each day, getting home, getting settled and getting her 3-year-old to bed early is almost impossible every night.
"This morning I had to wake him up at 7:30 a.m., so I knew he was still tired."
A large scale study published online Monday by the journal Pediatrics -tracked bedtimes and behaviors of 10,000 children - three, five and seven.
Dr. James Orlowski heads Pediatrics at Florida Hospital Tampa. "They found that the children who didn't have regular bedtime hours and did not have regular sleep had more behavior problems and more problems with hyperactivity."
Dr. Orlowski says sleep deprivation is bad for everyone, but sleep deprivation can harm a child's developing brain.
"They need at least eight hours, probably better to have ten for the younger children." And irregular bedtimes will disrupt a child's circadian rhythms. "If you're not getting enough sleep, than this pattern that the hormones need to go through to help the growth of the body and the growth of the brain is lacking."
What is a healthy bedtime for your children? Dr. Orlowski says your three year old should be in bed by 8:00 pm. So should your five year old, but your seven year old can stay up till 8:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. But that's seven nights a week - including Friday and Saturday night."
On an average night - after play time, reading, bath and brushing teeth - Luke doesn't get to bed until 9:30 p.m.
"I suspect he probably plays for a good twenty - thirty minutes in bed before he actually falls asleep," Natalie said.
And sometimes, mom says, his behavior changes because of it.
This is the good news from the study.
"They found that they could correct these problems by instituting regular bedtimes in children who never had that before and had behavior problems," Orlowski said.
Even if your child is getting to bed later than ideal - try to at least keep the bedtime consistent. For advice on bedtime routines from the American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Bedtime-Routines-for-School-Aged-Children.aspx