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Not Getting Enough Sleep May Have Negative Impact on Children’s Psychological Health

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children between the ages of 6 and 12 get 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night. A recent study suggests that the amount of sleep a child gets may have an effect on depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and cognitive performance.

Researchers from the University of Warwick and Fudan University examined data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development database, which includes 11,067 children between the ages of 9 and 11. Structural MRI was analyzed in relation to sleep duration to determine the effect of sleep duration on brain volume. Psychiatric and cognitive measures were also recorded.

Results of the analysis showed that longer sleep duration is associated with higher brain volume in the orbitofrontal cortex, prefrontal and temporal cortex, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus areas of the brain. All of these brain areas are involved in the processes of executive functioning and/or memory and emotions.

The researchers also found that depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and cognitive function were negatively correlated with sleep duration. The total score for behavior problems was 53% higher on average in children who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night compared to those who get 9 to 11 hours. Additionally, total cognitive scores were on average 7.8% lower for children who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Depressive problems were significantly associated with short sleep duration 1 year later.

The study was published on February 3, 2020 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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