New mother Angelica Millette makes putting a baby to sleep look easy.
Millette is a pediatric sleep consultant, and teaches other parents about good sleep habits.
“When babies don't get enough sleep, it starts to impact their behavior,” Millette said. “It disorganizes them."
New research confirms Millette is right. A study in the United Kingdom links irregular bedtimes with behavior problems. Kids who did not have an early bedtime from an early age through childhood were more likely to misbehave by the time they were seven years old.
Those behavior problems were not diagnosed by doctors, but by those who know kids best: Teachers and mothers.
"Most parents know just from looking at their children, they know when they're sleepy and not sleepy based on their behavior,” said Gary Montgomery of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sleep Center.
While the study does not prove irregular bedtimes cause bad behavior, researchers found that the problem can be reversed. When kids got back on track with a regular bedtime, their mood – and behavior – improved.
"The child gets a lot of satisfaction and security from that predictability each night,” Montgomery said.
Sleep experts recommend evening reading, and warn that nighttime is not ideal for watching television or texting.
"Part of making sleep changes or using a sleep solution is a little bit about setting a limit and being consistent with that limit and that's not always easy to do," Millette said.
It’s all about setting ground rules for settling down, and creating a familiar cadence for bedtime from the very beginning.