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Sleep Deficits May Affect Kids’ Mental Health

A new UK study suggests the amount of sleep a child receives may influence cognitive and behavioral problems in children. Researchers believe depression, anxiety, impulsive behaviors and poor cognitive performance can stem from sleep deficits in children, and the study begins to map brain areas affected by not enough sleep.

University of Warwick investigators said that sleep states are active processes that support reorganization of brain circuitry. Therefore sleep is especially important for children, whose brains are developing and reorganizing rapidly.

Co-author Professor Edmund Rolls from the University of Warwick’s Department of Computer Science said, “These are important associations that have been identified between sleep duration in children, brain structure, and cognitive and mental health measures, but further research is needed to discover the underlying reasons for these relationships.”

The findings of Rolls, Professor Jianfeng Feng, Dr. Wei Cheng and colleagues appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Researchers reviewed data from 11,000 children aged 9-11. Measures of depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and poor cognitive performance in the children were associated with shorter sleep duration. Moreover, the depressive problems were associated with short sleep duration one year later.

Investigators discovered certain brain areas displayed a lower brain volume among children who reported a shorter sleep duration. Data analytics found that the orbitofrontal cortex, prefrontal and temporal cortex, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus all had less volume than expected.

“The recommended amount of sleep for children 6 to 12 years of age is 9-12 hours, Feng said. “However, sleep disturbances are common among children and adolescents around the world due to the increasing demand on their time from school, increased screen time use, and sports and social activities.”

A previous study showed that about 60 percent of adolescents in the United States receive less than eight hours of sleep on school nights.

“Our findings showed that the behavior problems total score for children with less than 7 hours sleep was 53 percent higher on average and the cognitive total score was 7.8 percent lower on average than for children with 9-11 hours of sleep. It highlights the importance of enough sleep in both cognition and mental health in children,” said Feng.

Source: University of Warwick

Sleep Deficits May Affect Kids’ Mental Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Sleep Deficits May Affect Kids’ Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Feb 2020 (Originally: 5 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 5 Feb 2020
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