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A recent study published in JAMA Network shows that even a slight lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on children. It’s bad for both their mental and physical health. Losing just 39 minutes of sleep can lead to reduced quality of life and lower well-being.  It also means more difficulties coping at school.

How a “Trivial” Lack of Sleep Affects Children

The study exists as part of the DREAM study and involves 100 healthy children aged 8 to 12.  None of these kids  have existing sleeping problems. These children underwent alternating weeks of restricted rest and extended sleep, with a one-week period in between. During the restricted phase, the children’s bedtimes were one hour later.  In the extended phase bedtimes, they were set for an hour sooner. The children still woke up at their usual times.

Parents and children were asked to assess the children’s health-related quality of life using various questionnaires. The results showed that a lack of sleep, even for just a week, can have significant negative impacts on kids.  It affects their physical and mental well-being as well as their ability to cope with the school environment.

Why These Findings Are Significant

This study is particularly important because most previous studies in this area have focused on children with sleep disorders. This new study has demonstrated a direct connection between sleep deprivation and health-related quality of life in healthy children. It highlights the importance of adequate rest for:

  1. Maintaining a child’s sense of well-being
  2. Their ability to cope with school.

How to Help Children Sleep Better and Avoid a Lack of Sleep

Sleep experts recommend making rest a priority for both children and adults. Practice good resting hygiene, such as disconnecting from devices before bedtime and creating regular bedtimes.  These can help normalize sleep and provide developing brains and bodies with enough rest. Parents should also be aware of the harmful effects of blue light exposure from devices, which can send a signal to the brain that it’s time to be awake, making it harder to fall asleep.

The Takeaway

This study is a wake-up call (pun intended) for parents.  They’ve got to take rest seriously and prioritize it for both themselves and their children. Sleep is essential for maintaining physical and mental health.  A lack of it can have long-lasting effects on a child’s well-being. Parents should make every effort to ensure their children get enough quality sleep every night.  That is, if they wish to promote optimal health and functioning.