A modest increase in sleep each night among children ages 7 to 11 resulted in significant improvement in their alertness and ability to regulate their emotions, including limiting restless-impulsive behavior in school, while decreasing sleep by about an hour was linked with detectable deterioration of such emotions, says a new study in the journal Pediatrics.1
An estimated 64 percent of school-aged children (ages 6 to 12) go to bed later than 9 p.m., and 43 percent of boys ages 10 to 11 sleep less than the recommended amount each night. The data suggest such decreased sleep time and increasingly delayed bedtimes result in sleep restriction as an emerging problem in preadolescents.
While healthy sleep is essential for alertness and other key functions related to academic success, research involving the impact of the amount of sleep on a child's day-to-day behavior in school has been limited.
In an effort to mimic modest sleep variations that occur naturally, researchers tested the effects of a 1-hour extension or restriction of sleep over 5 consecutive nights on the actual day-to-day function of children in school.
They found that extending sleep by 27 minutes was associated with a detectable reduction in reported daytime sleepiness, and increased their alertness and ability to regulate their emotions, including limiting restless-impulsive behavior in school, while decreasing sleep by 54 minutes was linked with detectable deterioration of such emotions and alertness.
The findings of the current study are consistent wtih those of two recent studies which revealed that reduced sleep duration increased negative behavior and impaired the ability of developing toddlers and adolescents to regulate their emotions.
The authors recognized that "the idea that daytime alertness and performance can be improved by increasing sleep duration is controversial" and that "the extent of change in sleep duration necessary to create a measurable impact on daytime alertness and performance is unclear."
They said their new findings, which they suggested be considered preliminary in view of the small sample size (just 34 students), have important and clinical implications. Parents, educators, and students need to be educated, said the authors, about the impact of sleep on daytime function, and of the need to make sleep a priority.
1. Gruber R, Cassoff J, Frenette S, Wiebe S, Carrier J. Impact of Sleep Extension and Restriction on Children's Emotional Liability and Impulsivity. Pediatrics 2012; 130(5). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-0564 (published on line ahead of print)(accessed October 14, 2012)
Posted October 15, 2012