For Kids, More Sleep Equals Greater Emotional Stability

10/28/2012

 

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We know that sleep-deprived kids are a recipe for disaster--public meltdowns and plenty of crankiness. But we didn’t know such a small margin of lost sleep can cause big changes in behavior, especially with regards to school performance. New research published in the journal Pediatrics takes a look at how a lack of shut-eye may have a big impact on our kids.

Our country is sleep-deprived, a problem that we pass onto our children. A recent study followed healthy kids ages seven to 11, deprived of just one hour of sleep for five nights. According to study author Reut Gruber, the goal was to see if modest changes in sleep patterns impacted a child’s behavior at school.

Teachers were asked to fill out simple questionnaires to assess a child’s attention, impulsiveness, irritability, and emotional reactivity at the end of a study period.

Time reports:

Compared with their same ratings during an initial five days of unmanipulated sleep — in which the researchers asked parents to allow the children to sleep as they normally would to establish a baseline — those who were deprived of an hour’s sleep had worse scores on behavior measures than those who were allowed to sleep an hour more. (The parents were asked to change their children’s bed times, and while they were able to put the kids to bed an hour earlier when needed, the youngsters ended up sleeping only about 30 minutes more.) 

On average, kids with deprived sleep scored 4 points higher in terms of irritability, frustration, and problems paying attention while kids that slept more had a three point drop in those categories. 

Time reports:

The scientists intentionally conducted their study outside of the lab, in the real-life setting of the children’s homes and schools, because they wanted to assess how everyday changes — which could involve losing an hour or gaining an hour of sleep — might impact children’s behavior in the classroom.

Making sure your child gets ample sleep every day may have a huge impact on how they do in the classroom. It's all the more reason to tgive your child a routine bed time. 

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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