Research on the Benefits of Sleep for All Ages
Research has revealed significant benefits of good sleep habits and significant negative consequences of inadequate sleep in children from infancy to young adulthood. The recommended sleep for an adult is 7 or more hours per night. Extensive research demonstrates the many benefits of healthy sleep habits in adults. Teaching your child to sleep well is a first step toward life-long good health.
When children sleep the proper number of hours on a regular basis, they experience many health benefits:
- Improved attention
- Improved behavior
- Improved learning
- Improved emotional regulation
- Improved mental and physical health
Handout: How to Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
To learn how to teach your child healthy sleep habits, read chapter 12 in Loving By Leading.
Here is some research on the health effects of sleep:
Infancy & Toddlerhood
- Infant Sleep Training. “Parents [can be taught] that simple strategies, including a consistent bedtime by 8 pm and allowing infants to self-soothe to sleep without being held, rocked, or fed, are associated with significantly longer nighttime sleep durations, fewer nighttime wakings and feeds, and less time awake at night.”
- Short Sleep Duration in Infancy and Risk of Childhood Overweight. Babies and toddlers who sleep fewer than 12 hours daily are at greater risk (doubled) for being overweight at preschool age (3 years old). TV viewing increased this effect: Toddlers who watch 2 hours or more by age 2, increased their chances of being obese at age 3 years.
- Toddlers Who Sleep Less Eat More. Toddlers who sleep less than 10 hours a day are likely to become fatter than those who sleep at least 13 hours a day. A study of more than 2500 toddlers aged 16 months found that those who got less sleep ate a tenth more calories than those who slept longer.
- Pre-schoolers with later bedtimes are more likely to be obese. The risk of obesity increased with the lateness of bedtime: 10% for those with bedtime at or before 8PM; 16% for bedtime 8 to 9PM; 23% for bedtime later than 9PM.
- Infants with Poor Sleep Habits are likely to have trouble sleeping at a later age. Children with a reported overall sleep problem in infancy were three times more likely to have reported sleep problems at age 36 months than infants whose mothers did not report an overall sleep problem.
- Early sleep problems (18 months old) predict later emotional and behavioral problems (5 years old). This study reveals that short sleep duration (less than 10 hours) and frequent night wakening at 18 months is significantly predictive of emotional and behavioral problems at 5 years of age.
- Sleep problems are associated with multiple impairments in child well‐being. The linkages between sleep problems and negative child outcomes across domains underscore the importance of early identification and targeted intervention to address sleep problems and promote child well‐being.
- Small Screens in the Bedroom and its Effect upon Sleep. Researchers found that small screens in school-age children’s bedroom caused shorter sleep duration and later bedtime om both school nights and weekends.
- Bedtime in School-aged Children and the Risk for Adolescent Obesity. Preschool-aged children with early weekday bedtimes (8 PM) were one-half as likely as children with late bedtimes (9 PM) to be obese as adolescents. Bedtimes are a modifiable routine that may help to prevent obesity.
- Household Routines and Obesity in US Preschool-Aged Children. US preschool-aged children exposed to the 3 household routines of regularly eating the evening meal as a family, obtaining adequate nighttime sleep, and having limited screen-viewing time had an ∼40% lower prevalence of obesity than those exposed to none of these routines.
Healthy Habits, Happy Homes: Randomized Trial to Improve Household Routines for Obesity Prevention Among Preschool-Aged Children. Promoting household routines, particularly increasing sleep duration and reducing TV viewing, may be an effective approach to reduce body mass index among low-income, racial/ethnic minority children.
- Impact of Sleep Extension and Restriction on Children’s Emotional Lability and Impulsivity. In this study, children 7-11 years of age experienced significant improvement in alertness and emotional regulation with the addition of one hour of sleep. Likewise, the removal of one hour of sleep from another group resulted in the opposite effects.
- Sleep Duration and Childhood Obesity are Related. A review of 25 studies published from 2006-2011 revealed that shorter sleep duration is associated with greater childhood overweight/obesity.
- Poor Sleep leads to Obesity. Sleep times for adults and children have become shorter over the past decades, and there have been corresponding increases in body weight.
- Sleep and Risky Behaviors in Adolescents. Adolescents who get fewer than six hours of sleep at night were more than twice as likely to report alcohol and other drug use, nearly twice as likely to be involved in fights and three times as likely to consider or attempt suicide, compared with those who slept for at least eight hours at night, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
- Association Between Portable Screen-Based Media Device Access or Use and Sleep Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Bedtime access to and use of a media device were significantly associated with the following: inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Better Sleep as a Child Leads to Better Self-Control as a Teen. “Higher rhythmicity of sleep, lower level of tiredness and infrequent sleep difficulties predicted higher behavioral control in adolescence.”
- Researchers found that of 4,100 teenagers they studied, the one-third with the poorest sleep quality were more likely to be overweight or have unhealthy blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
- Sleep Schedules and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents. High schools students with earlier bedtimes and longer, more regular sleep had higher grades (A’s and B’s) compared with students with later bedtimes and shorter or more irregular sleep (C’s, D’s, F’s). Also found more depressed mood in adolescents who slept fewer than 6 hours, 45 minutes, on school nights compared with those who slept 8 hours, 15 minutes, or more in school nights.
- The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Decision-Making: A Review. Sleep deprivation adversely affects decision-making skills, executive functioning, and behavioral inhibition.
- Inadequate Sleep is Linked to Obesity. Sleeping poorly can increase a person’s risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.