HealthMore sleep may reduce impulsive behavior in children

More sleep may reduce impulsive behavior in children

A study from the Institute of Youth Development at the University of Georgia (United States), published in the journal ‘Sleep Health’, has found that better sleep can reduce the negative influence of environmental stressors on impulsive behavior in children.

Sleep is a critical part of a child’s overall health, but it can also be an important factor in their behavior since getting enough sleep can help children combat the effects of stressful environments.

“Stressful environments have been shown to cause adolescents to seek immediate rewards rather than delayed rewards, but there are also adolescents who find themselves in stressful environments who are not impulsive,” explains the study’s lead author, a fourth-year doctoral student. at UGA School of Family and Family Studies, Linhao Zhang. “We analyzed what explains this link and what differentiates some people from others. One mechanism we found is sleep,” he adds.

The researchers analyzed data from the Adolescent Cognitive Brain Development Study, a multi-year brain development study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Using data from 11,858 children ages 9 to 10, they found that lack of sleep and long sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) had a significant link with impulsive behaviors later in life.

Sleep problems, such as sleep latency and impulsive behaviors, were tested at multiple times over two years. When children slept less than the recommended nine hours or took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, there was a strong link with impulsive behaviors in the future. Some of these behaviors included acting without a plan, thrill or sensation seeking, and a lack of perseverance.

However, sleep was a mediator between these actions, and when sleep problems were absent during the study, impulsivity was also less likely to be observed in the future.

Neurological hyperconnectivity, in which adolescents’ brains remained highly active even when they weren’t actively engaged in tasks, also played a role, Zhang says.

This study looked at the default mode network, a brain network related to goal-directed behaviors. When this network was overactive during the resting state, it could exacerbate the link between stressful environments, sleep, and impulsivity. This connection could be related to ADHD, which Zhang would like to explore in future studies.

“We can look at the default mode network and emotion regulation regions. It’s also possible that this hyperactivity and ADHD are highly correlated, so in a future study we could test it in a more clinical setting. That could have big implications on the outcomes.” intervention or counseling programs,” details the researcher.

These findings not only highlight the role of sleep in cognitive and behavioral development, but could also inform low-cost interventions to aid the psychological development of children facing stressors at home, Zhang says.

“If you want to develop interventions for people in stressful environments, it’s very expensive, and sometimes it takes generational work to change,” Zhang cautions. “However, sleep is a modifiable behavior and these changes can be profitable,” she adds.

In addition, the author assures that too little sleep can be a problem even outside of stressful environments. For example, teenagers often have a circadian rhythm that is geared towards staying up late and sleeping in, but starting school early and completing homework late into the night can disrupt that rhythm.

“Many adolescents do not have enough time to sleep and are sleep deprived. This study shows why it is important to promote longer sleep duration by delaying the start of school or establishing routines so that adolescents know: ‘Okay, after this event ‘I’m going to bed,'” explains the author.

Establishing these routines, regardless of the environment, can create healthier patterns and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. It is also vital to act early when developing sleep habits.

“For people who may be in disadvantaged environments, if we can provide some strategies that help sleep, it can have a positive impact, especially for adolescents who are in such a critical developmental stage for their brain development,” he concludes.


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