Study Finds Sleep-Deprived Kids Get Into More Trouble Later On

Put them to bed early. And often.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

For any given three year old, a bad night’s sleep is going to lead to grumpiness, grogginess and maybe a tantrum or two. But according to a new paper in Academic Pediatrics, the stakes are even higher: When young kids are regularly underslept, it gets them into all sorts of trouble in later childhood.

Drawing on a sample of over 1,000 American children, Harvard University public health scholar Elsie Taveras and her colleagues found that kids who got under the recommended 10 hours of sleep from ages three to four and under nine hours from ages five to seven got worse marks on behavior by their mothers and teachers at age seven. They had more problems with peer relationships and classroom behavior, as well as hyperactivity and attention. The results indicate that poor sleep habits have “important effects on a child’s ability to self-regulate their behavior,” Taveras said in a statement provided to Thrive Global, limiting a child’s ability to perform well in school, at home and with their friends. Earlier research from Tavares — who’s the chief of general academic pediatrics at MassGeneral as well as an associate professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health — found that underslept infants were more likely to be obese by the time they were three.

Kids aren’t the only people undermined by poor rest, of course: Studies on adults suggest that sleep deprivation makes your senses and thinking sloppy. Neuroscience is also revealing some of the brain regions involved. For instance, sleeplessness impairs the function your hippocampus — associated with memory, emotion, and spatial movement — and your prefrontal cortex, an area involved in planning and making decisions. This study is more evidence that sleep is crucial regardless of your age, and that the effects of too little shut eye can last well beyond tomorrow.

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