I Don’t Want To Go To Bed Yet: Sleep Deprivation in School-Aged Children
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Sleep is an important component of child development, yet a growing number of children are sleeping fewer hours than recommended. Correlational research has showed a significant relationship between shortened sleep and difficulties with academic performance, attention and behaviour, however, very few studies experimentally manipulate children’s sleep to evaluate the daytime consequences. This study examined the impact of sleep restriction on attention, behaviour, and cognitive functioning in typically developing children. Sleep duration was restricted and extended by one hour in relation to baseline sleep for 4 nights each. The impact of these sleep conditions was assessed through both objective (one-to-one tests) and subjective (parent, teacher, RA, child questionnaires) measures. We hypothesized that all informants would report a decrease in behavioural functioning (e.g., increased opposition, impulsivity and hyperactivity) in the sleep restricted condition compared to sleep extended condition, and that children would perform less well on tasks of academic functioning during the sleep restriction condition. Results showed significant differences on parent ratings of attention and behaviour in the restricted versus extended sleep condition. Teachers and children did not report any significant changes. Importantly, the research assistant was blind to experimental condition, and reported significant changes. Significant differences were also found on tasks of short-term memory. These results indicate that even modest amounts of sleep restriction can affect daytime behaviour in children, however, the changes may be subtle and not observable in a classroom context.