Even Modest Sleep Increase Improves Child Behavior

Improvement seen in alertness and emotional regulation; sleep restriction has opposite effects

MONDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- For children aged 7 to 11 years, a moderate increase in sleep correlates with improvement in emotional regulation and alertness, while the opposite effects are observed with sleep restriction, according to a study published online Oct. 15 in Pediatrics.

Reut Gruber, Ph.D., from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Verdun, Canada, and colleagues assessed the impact of moderate sleep extension and restriction on child behavior in school using data from a sample of 34 typically developing children, aged 7 to 11 years, with no reported sleep problems or behavioral, medical, or academic issues. The impact of sleep extension (one additional hour relative to baseline habitual sleep duration) or sleep restriction (elimination of one hour) was evaluated by teachers who were blinded to the sleep status of the participants.

The researchers found that a cumulative sleep extension of 27.36 minutes correlated with noticeable improvement in Conners' Global Index-derived emotional lability and restless-impulsive behavior scores of children in school. Sleep extension was also associated with a significant decrease in reported daytime sleepiness. By the same measures, detectable deterioration was observed with a cumulative restriction of 54.04 minutes of sleep.

"Given the positive impact of moderate sleep extension and the negative impact of moderate sleep restriction, it is important that parents, educators, and students are provided with sleep education featuring data on the critical impact of sleep on daytime function," the authors write.

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