Twenty-Seven Minutes of Extra Sleep

Published 10/19 2012 05:00AM

Updated 10/24 2012 10:42AM

Twenty-Seven minutes of extra sleep doesn't sound like it would make much of a difference in a child's behavior, but according to a new study it could help a child be more productive and brighter.

Researchers discovered that kids who slept that extra amount each night were less impulsive, less easily distracted, and less likely to have temper tantrums or cry often and easily. By contrast, losing just shy of an hour's worth of sleep had the opposite effects on behavior and mood.

Small changes in bedtime and daily routine could go a long way says researcher Reut Gruber, PhD. She is an assistant professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Conversely, one more video game and staying a little longer in a friend's house ... could add up and have a negative impact on the daytime functioning of healthy children.

The small study included 34 children aged seven to eleven who had no sleep, medical, behavior or academic problems. The children were divided into two groups. One group went to bed an hour earlier than their normal bedtime and the other group, an hour later for one week. To monitor their activity and sleep, the children wore a wristwatch-like device.

According to the study, kids who got 27.36 minutes more sleep per night showed improvements, while those who got less than that did not.

Besides being a very exact number, does 27.36 minutes really make a difference?

In daily life, if you think of the impact of short power naps, usually about 15 to 20 minutes during the day, you can see that this amount of sleep can have a significant positive impact on mood, attention, and well-being, says Gruber.

The children who were allowed to sleep more were found to be more alert, better behaved and more empathetic. Those with less sleep were determined to be less alert.

The children's teachers were asked to fill out behavioral assessments. The teachers had no idea there was an experiment going on.

The scoring system started with a baseline of 50 points. Among the children who were allowed to sleep longer, their scores rose to 54 points. Children who slept less dropped to 47 points.

"This opens the door to an effective, feasible way to improve children's health and performance," Gruber told the Toronto Star.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children from five to twelve years of age need ten to eleven hours of sleep a night. Most school-aged children go to bed later than 9 p.m., and 43% of boys ages 10 to 11 sleep less than the recommended amount each night, according to the new study.

You can usually tell when a child hasn't gotten enough sleep; they are yawning and dosing throughout the day. But Gruber says other symptoms can also manifest such as hyperactivity, crankiness, impulsiveness, and a short attention span.

Many studies have suggested that there is an important link between not getting enough sleep and being able to function at a person's best. Most school-age children want to stay up as long as possible, but they can pay a high price the next day. outlines a nine-step program for parents to help their children get the rest they need.


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