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An extra hour of sleep can make a big difference for kids

The modest sleep loss that results from going to bed an hour later than usual can compromise childrens alertness and brain functioning, a new study suggests.

Our results have significant clinical and educational implications, says author Avi Sadeh, D.Sci., of the department of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel. They highlight the need for parents and professionals to be aware of the consequences of insufficient sleep in children and the potential benefits of sleep extension.

Previous studies of adults have found that sleep deprivation significantly impairs the brains executive control system, which helps people organize, prioritize and focus on tasks. But few sleep-deprivation studies have focused on children, and those few have tended to examine extreme rather than modest sleep deprivation.

The daily struggles between children and their parents usually occur at home and are often limited to modest changes in sleep, Sadeh says. Persistent battles on topics such as just one more TV show raise the scientific question: What difference does an hour make?

To help answer this question, Sadeh and colleagues studied the effects of adding or subtracting one hour of sleep on 77 children in fourth and sixth grades. In addition to keeping a log of sleep-related information such as lights-off time and the number of times the kids woke up during the night, each child wore an actigraph, a device on the wrist that detects movement. Information gleaned from the actigraph was used to determine the childrens sleep schedule (the time they fell asleep and the duration of sleep) and sleep quality (how many time they woke up during the night and how long they were awake).

For the first two nights of the five-night study period, the children adhered to their normal sleep pattern, and for the last three nights the children were asked either to extend or reduce their sleep time by one hour.

At the start and end of the study, the res
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Contact: Avi Sadeh
sadeh@post.tau.ac.il
972-3640-9296
Center for the Advancement of Health
4-Mar-2003


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