WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Getting the kids to bed may not be easy, but it can pay off in the long run.
Children who can get just a little more sleep each night can improve their school behavior and alertness levels, new research suggests.
The finding is published online Oct. 15 and in the November print issue of Pediatrics.
“Even small changes in daily life that can allow children to add about a half hour of sleep could have a significant impact,” study author Reut Gruber, director of the attention behavior and sleep lab at the Douglas Institute at McGill University in Quebec, told US News.
For the research, Gruber randomly assigned 34 children, aged 7 to 11, to one of two groups. One group had their sleep restricted, with bedtimes moved back so they lost an hour of sleep, for five nights straight.
The other group had their bedtimes moved up, so they gained an hour of sleep time for five consecutive nights.
The children wore wrist-watch like devices, called actigraphs, to record their sleep. Gruber found the sleep-extension group slept on average just 27 additional minutes a night. Those in the restricted group slept, on average, 54 minutes less a night. At the study start, both groups slept, on average, about nine hours.
Children in this age group should sleep 10 or 11 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Teachers rated the children on standard measures of behavior, such as impulsivity, restlessness and emotional ability. They also noted daytime sleepiness.
Those in the extra sleep group did better, showing improvement in alertness, behavior and emotions, the researchers found. Those in the restricted group had declining scores on alertness.
Study author Gruber said that children may be sleep-deprived for a number of reasons. They can get involved in electronic media past bedtime, including playing video games, watching television, texting or talking to friends. Parents may also encourage too much activity at night, she said. When children are too busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities, it often delays bedtimes, she said.
“Don’t allow electronics in the bedroom. Be sure the bedroom environment is comfortable.”