How much sleep kids get affects their mental health

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There’s a link between children’s sleep duration and depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and poor cognitive performance, researchers report.

In a new paper in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers examine the relationship between sleep duration and brain structure in 11,000 children ages 9-11 from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development dataset.

The researchers found that 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. The researchers based their results on association studies, not causal studies.

Researchers found an association between lower brain volume of brain areas involved the orbitofrontal cortex, prefrontal and temporal cortex, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus and the shorter sleep duration by using big data analysis approach.

“The recommended amount of sleep for children 6 to 12 years of age is 9-12 hours. 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,” says Jianfeng Feng, a professor in the computer science department at the University of Warwick.

A previous study showed that about 60% of adolescents in the United States get less than eight hours of rest on school nights.

“Our findings showed that the behavior problems total score for children with less than seven hours sleep was 53% higher on average and the cognitive total score was 7.8% 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,” Feng says. “We have to stress here that the results were found based upon association studies, but not causal studies.”

“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,” says Edmund Rolls, a professor in the computer science department.

Source: University of Warwick