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Too Little Sleep Takes Toll on Kids' Mental Health: Study

FRIDAY, March 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who don't get enough sleep may be at risk for ADHD, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, researchers report.

"If we make sure our children get enough sleep, it can help protect them from mental health problems," said researcher Bror Ranum, a doctoral candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

The study followed nearly 800 children over several years. It found that those who got the least sleep had the highest odds of developing psychiatric difficulties later.

"We're seeing an association between sleep duration and a risk of symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorders," Ranum said in a university news release.

The researchers measured sleep with motion sensors every night for a week. They did interviews to gauge mental health difficulties. These steps were repeated several times every two years.

How much sleep each child needs depends on the individual, Ranum said. Too little sleep for one child may be more than enough for another, so parents shouldn't fret.

"But if you find that your child seems to be under the weather and can't concentrate, or you notice their mood fluctuates more than normal, then you may want to help them get more sleep," Ranum said.

Having a consistent wake-up time is perhaps the most important way to build healthy sleep habits, he said.

Only about 1% of 6-year-olds studied got less than seven hours of sleep. As kids got older, those who didn't get enough sleep increased (3.9% at age 8; 4.2% at age 10, and 13.6% at age 12).

Many children had one or more nights with fewer than seven hours (15.1% at age 6; 39.1% at age 8; 45.7% at age 10, and 64.5% at age 12).

While the consequences of a few nights of too little sleep aren't known, researchers noted that just one wakeful night is associated with kids being moodier and less able to concentrate.

The report was recently published online in the journal JAMA Network Open.

More information

For more on kids and sleep, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SOURCE: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, news release, March 16, 2020

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