Study links lack of sleep to learning, behavior issues in kids

Research shows babies and toddlers who do no get enough sleep may have learning and behavior issues later on in life. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH ) — A lack of sleep may not just be creating a cranky kid the next day, but it could impact that child years down the road, according to a new study.

For adults sleep is about rest and decompressing each day, but for a child it is critical for proper brain development. The study shows not enough sleep for toddler and pre-school age can lead to attention deficit, lack of emotional control and even poor relationships with other kids when that child enters grade school and later on in life. When it comes to performance in school that means challenges with memory, reasoning, and problem solving.

A pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital studied more than 1,000 kids for this research. Parents and teachers completed questionnaires and in-person interviews starting at six months of age and continuing until the child was seven years old.

The study found that even when other factors in a child’s life improved, if sleep didn’t neither did the behavioral issues.

One pediatric psychologist 24-Hour News 8 spoke to said it is often the first thing she addresses with a new patient.

“We know from studies that the majority of parents don’t think that their children are getting enough sleep and so that before we’re going to try anything else, before you’re going to get a diagnosis for something like ADHD, one of the things we’re going to say is let’s see if we can get a little bit more sleep,” Riley Hospital for Children’s Dr. Kate Lyn Walsh said.

Dr. Walsh said parents can start making changes immediately to combat poor sleep for their kids. She suggests implementing a routine that doesn’t include any electronics within an hour of bedtime.

“You want it to be very similar from one night to the next. You don’t want a big change. It should be like we brush our teeth, we have our bath time, then we do some reading and then we go to sleep. It should be very consistent from one night to the next,” Dr. Walsh said.

Dr. Walsh said keeping that routine, even on the weekends is important. Bed time and wake-up time should not change more than an hour, even on the weekends.

Finally, create a good sleep environment for your kids, preferably a room to themselves, definitely a bed to themselves, either a dark room or just a night light and of course a quiet space.

The amount of sleep a child needs does depend on the child, but doctors recommend 12 hours or more for ages six months to two years, 11 hours or more at ages three and four, at least ten hours for children five to seven years old, and eight to ten hours for adolescents.

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