Kids: More Sleep, Less Cranky
October 15, 2012

More Sleep Means Children Are Less Cranky

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new study suggests that if a child catches a few more Z's at night, then he may be more likely to be less cranky the next day.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics found kids who averaged about 27 minutes more sleep at night had fewer behavior issues.

"Extending sleep opens the door to an effective, feasible way to improve children's health and performance," study author Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Research Center in Quebec, Canada, told CNN.

The team gathered 34 students between the ages seven to 11 for the study who were healthy and didn't have sleep problems or behavior or academic issues.

During one week of school, half the students were put to bed earlier than normal while the other half stayed up a little past their bedtime, losing about 54 minutes of sleep.

Teachers who were unaware of the sleep status of the students reported significant differences in how the children behaved.

The researchers found students who were sleep-deprived were more impulsive and irritable than their classmates.

Children who had more sleep had a better handle on their emotions and were more alert in class than their sleepyhead counterparts.

"We know that sleep deprivation can affect memory, creativity, verbal creativity and even things like judgment and motivation and being (engaged) in the classroom," Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, told CNN. "When you're sleepy, (being engaged) isn't going to happen."

She said that as children have trouble coping with day-to-day issues, having sleep can affect a child's relationship with teachers, as well as their peers.

Owens suggests parents pay attention to how much sleep children get during school vacations, and to watch for signs like falling asleep in the car or while watching TV.

The researchers say parents should start having their kids put down electronic devices and turning off the TV at about a half hour before bedtime.

"Consider that (sleep) is one of the building blocks of your child's health, well-being and academic success," Owens told CNN. "It's equivalent to good nutrition, exercise and all the other things we try to foster and provide for our children. You've got to put sleep right up there at the top of the list."

The team cautioned about the small size of the study and convenience sample used.  They said the result should be considered preliminary in nature.

The study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.