Sleep states are active processes that may function to support the reorganization of brain circuitry, which makes sleep especially important for children at this stage of brain development. 

In this study, we found that the sleep duration of children is associated with cognitive performance, dimensional psychopathology including depression, anxiety, and impulsive behavior and cortical area of medial cortical areas, inferior and middle temporal gyrus and precuneus. And the dimensional psychopathology in the parents was also correlated with short sleep duration in their children. These findings highlight the importance of enough sleep in both mental health and brain development in children.

The recommended amount of sleep for children 6 to 12 years of age is 9-12 hours. However, sleep disturbances are common among children and adolescents around the world. About 60% of adolescents in the United States receive less than eight hours of sleep on school nights. An important public health implication is that psychopathology in both children and their parents should be considered in relation to sleep problems in children. Moreover, we show that brain structure is associated with sleep problems in children, and that this is related to whether the child has depressive problems.

In fact, everyone knows that sleep is essential for children whose brains are developing rapidly. Our findings showed that the behaviour problems total score for children with less than 7 hours sleep was 53% higher on average and the cognitive total score was 7.8% lower on average than for children with 9-11 hours of sleep. We hope this study is able to attract public attention to the sleep problem in children and provide evidence for governments to develop advice about sleep for children.

Read more about the team’s research here.