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Study Examines the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Children

 

Numerous studies have demonstrated the effects of sleep on adult functioning. Sleep deprivation, poor sleep, and sleep disturbances have been linked to memory and performance deficits, mood swings, and compromised cognitive functioning in adults. But less is known about the relationship between sleep and functioning in children. This is a crucial area of research because of the significant developmental milestones that occur during childhood. Rebecca G. Astill of the Department of Sleep and Cognition at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience recently conducted a study researching the effects of sleep impairment on children.

Astill examined data from 86 studies involving more than 35,000 children ranging in age from 5 to 12. She looked at how sleep duration affected cognitive performance, school performance, behavior, intelligence, memory, and attention. She found that shorter episodes of sleep had negative effects on cognitive functioning in the children. Additionally, the children with the least amount of sleep exhibited poor academic performance and had more externalizing and internalizing traits. Surprisingly, lack of sleep did not affect memory or sustained attention, as it has been shown to in adults. Another finding of interest was that intelligence was not shown to be affected by sleep impairment or shorter sleep duration. This is significant because intelligence, attention, and memory capacity are all aspects of functioning that undergo critical developmental advances during the school years.

The results of this study highlight how important adequate sleep is for children. Although this research could not explain why shorter sleep periods had no influence on memory or attention, Astill believes that perhaps the cognitive development that occurs during waking hours plays a key role in these areas of functioning. Future research should explore this more. Clinically, these findings are relevant. “The suggestion that insufficient sleep in children affects cognitive performance and aggravates behavioral problems is of particular practical relevance given the increasing tendency towards curtailment of their sleep,” Astill said. These results, coupled with future work, will help illuminate the unique relationship between sleep and cognitive and behavioral development in children.

Reference:

  1. Astill, Rebecca G., Kristiaan B. Van Der Heijden, Marinus H. Van IJzendoorn, and Eus JW Van Someren. Sleep, cognition, and behavioral problems in school-age children: A century of research meta-analyzed. Psychological Bulliten 138.6 (2012): 1109-138. Print.

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Comments
  • Matilda November 20th, 2012 at 1:53 PM #1

    Although many parents keep an eye on and ensure their kids get adequate sleep,I think quality is just as important as quantity. Just enough sleep is not sufficient, the kids need quality sleep. So sugary foods and television before bedtime or junk at odd times can and will affect sleep quality and I’m sure sleep quality plays a role in development just as much as sleep quantity.

  • Avery November 20th, 2012 at 4:05 PM #2

    I am convinced that most behavioral problesm especially inchildren are a direct result of getting too little consistent sleep at night.

    I hate going out late and seeing parents out with their young kids who probably should have been in the bed hours ago.

    I try not to judge but when they are out misbehaving I just want to tell then to take a look at the sleep that they are getting and really ask themselves if they think that it is adequate for any young child.

  • rudy November 20th, 2012 at 11:29 PM #3

    functioning optimally without enough sleep is a big deal for me as an adult.kids will only struggle when that happens to them.that can also quickly set up a cycle wherein they are constantly sleeping for fewer hours an that may well result in downgrading their abilities.

    sleep is something that keys us recharge our batteries.and if a device in your pocket does not fiction without enough juice in the batteries then how do you expect yourself to?!

  • sammi j November 21st, 2012 at 5:11 AM #4

    Well late at night is sometimes the only time I get to see my kids. So judge me if you have to but if I want to see my children and that’s when it has to be, then yeah, we will all lose a little sleep over it.

  • alex tudor November 21st, 2012 at 12:08 PM #5

    wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have 24 hours of day light? Imagine all the productive hours…! Haha, yeah, that’s nature’s way of telling us just how important sleep is. And we know babies grow in their sleep, and that young children’s minds are still growing. So it would only take someone illogical to not ensure the kids get enough sleep.

  • SD November 22nd, 2012 at 12:24 AM #6

    “shorter episodes of sleep had negative effects on cognitive functioning in the children. Additionally, the children with the least amount of sleep exhibited poor academic performance and had more externalizing and internalizing traits. Surprisingly, lack of sleep did not affect memory or sustained attention, as it has been shown to in adults. Another finding of interest was that intelligence was not shown to be affected by sleep impairment or shorter sleep duration.”

    Why is it that some aspects of memory and functioning are affected and some others are not?I am highly interested in knowing about the same.

    Also, does a stumble in a few of these aspects and not the other hurt the person in the larger picture?How exactly does that happen?

  • keiran November 22nd, 2012 at 3:14 PM #7

    well sleep is just as important,if not more,for kids.and to emphasize,its not just the length of sleep but the quality of sleep that matters too.

    a growing mind needs enough nutrition and enough quality sleep.there is not two ways about it.also,the activities we do immediately before sleep can and will affect the quality of keep so I hope the parents keep an eye on that too.

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