A new study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reveals that preschoolers who get less than 10 1/2 hours of sleep per night have a greater chance of behavior problems later in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
“Preschool children with shorter nighttime sleep duration had higher odds of parent-reported over-activity, anger, aggression, impulsiveness, tantrums, and annoying behaviors,” according to the recent findings by Dr. Rebecca J. Scharf of University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and her colleagues.
The study, which was conducted nationally, followed about 9000 children from birth up to five years old. At approximately four years, parents were surveyed regarding what times their children went to sleep and then woke up in the morning.
The analysis focused on several different externalizing behaviors, such as outward anger and hostility, as opposed to internalizing behaviors like anxiety and low mood problems.
On the study’s questionnaire, sixteen percent of the children scored high for externalizing bad behavior. Boys fared worst than girls and both girls and boys suffered more when watching 2 hours of television per day.
After adjustment for other factors, “Children in the shortest sleep groups have significantly worse behavior than children with longer sleep duration,” Dr Scharf and colleagues write. The effect was greatest for aggressive behavior problems, which were about 80 percent more likely for children with nighttime sleep duration of less than 9¾ hours.
Its also common for adults with sleep issues to state that they also had sleep problems in childhood. This lends itself to the fact that for many children, they don’t seem to grow out of this condition after reaching adulthood. The anger, irritbility and poor behavior can follow through the entire span of one’s lifetime.
One new treatment for childhood insomnia is called neurofeedback, also know as brainwave biofeedback. The beauty of neurofeedback for children is that there are no drugs involved. A young brain is very susceptible to the side effects of many medications normally used on adults for sleep problems. Neurofeedback is also non-invasive, meaning that no electricity ever enters the brain. Sessions can be done at-home which is ideal for busy families.
There is a video game aspect to the treatment that kids adapt to very quickly. They tend to enjoy the treatment process much more the traditional therapy. Usually in about 20 sessions the child’s brainwaves are again re-balanced and the sleep challenges that were causing such difficult behavior problems are a thing of the past. Also with better sleep the child’s schoolwork improves along with better interaction between teachers, family members and peers.