As entrepreneur E. Joseph Cossman once said, “the best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep” - for all of us, especially children. A recently published study in the medical journal Pediatrics found a direct link between sleep pattern changes and child behavior. Led by Reut Gruber PhD, Sonia Frenette PhD, Julie Carrier PhD, Sabrina Wiebe MSc, and behavioral specialist consultant Jaime Cassoff, the report validates what every parent and child inherently knows: the short (and long) term effects of sleep changes can improve or detract from our daily interactions with each other.
The study was based in a randomized parallel group study of 34 children ages seven through eleven who received an additional hour of sleep on weekdays or were restricted an hour of sleep. Both experiments were based on the child’s habitual sleep duration and included observations from parents, teachers, and the research group. After change to their sleep routine was made, behavioral changes the children were noted on the Conners’ Global Index (CGI) of emotional lability and restless-impulse behavior scale. The study found that children who had gained an extra 27 minutes per evening of sleep were found to have less daytime sleepiness, increased alertness, greater emotional regulation, and less frequent restless/impulsive behavior. Children who lost 54 minutes of sleep suffered “detectable deterioration” on the CGI scale and presented precisely the opposite of the children who had slept an extra 27 minutes.
As every parent, doctor, and teacher knows, the short, medium, and long term effects of sleep changes in children significantly impact their overall physical, mental, and emotional development. Parents can help children be their best in many ways, including ensuring their children sleep enough. To be sure your child is spending enough time asleep, pediatricians recommend that newborns get 15-16 hours of sleep per evening, toddlers ages one to three get 12-14 hours, preschool and school aged three to six year old children get 10-12 hours, seven to twelve year olds need 10-11 hours, and pre-adolescents through teens ages twelve to eighteen years get 8-9 hours. Adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.