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Children’s mental health can be damaged by lack of sleep

Researchers say it can lead to depression, anxiety, and other cognitive problems

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The importance of sleep cannot be understated for any consumer, but researchers from the University of Warwick say that it’s especially important for developing children.

In a recent study, the team linked several negative mental health issues and cognitive problems with lack of sleep, including increased anxiety and depression. They say that getting adequate amounts of rest is especially important for children between the ages of 6 and 12 because their brains are still developing. However, there are some hurdles that parents will need to address to make sure their young ones are getting enough sleep.

"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,” said University of Warwick professor Jianfeng Feng.

Parents can help by being proactive

Previous studies have gone into depth about children’s need for sleep, but the researchers reaffirmed those findings by analyzing data from over 11,000 children. They found that shorter sleep durations were strongly linked to negative health and behavioral outcomes.

"Our findings showed that the behaviour problems total score for children with less than 7 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," said Feng. 

The team notes that more research needs to be conducted to find the underlying issues connected between mental health and sleep, but parents can be proactive by setting stricter curfews and limiting technology before bedtime. This is true even for older children and teens.

“Even though adolescents start gaining self-sufficiency and independence, they still need sleep and might not prioritize that if left to their own devices,” said Ronald Rogge, a researcher and professor at the University of Rochester. 

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