Sleeping badly could affect your child's mental health

Cute little caucasian girl lying in bed covering her head with blanket feeling exhausted and sleepless suffering from insomnia Depression Stress in Children Emotional and Sleeping Disorders concept.
Sleeping badly could affect your child's long-term mental health. [Photo: Getty]

Irritability, fatigue, short attention span – we all know the short-term effects of a bad night’s sleep, and these can have a particularly strong effect on children.

But what about the long-term impact? Regular sleep deprivation can have a worrying impact on children’s long-term mental health, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Warwick looked at 11,000 children aged 9-11, examining the relationship between sleep duration and brain structure.

READ MORE: More than a quarter of children not getting enough sleep

It was observed that children who had shorter sleep durations had reduced brain volume in areas such as the orbitofrontal cortex, prefrontal and temporal cortex, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus.

Having lower brain volume in these areas has been linked to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, impulsive behaviour and poor cognitive performance.

The results were shared in a paper entitled ‘Sleep duration, brain structure, and psychiatric and cognitive problems in children’, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The full paper can be viewed here.

Author Professor Jianfeng Feng, from the University of Warwick's Department of Computer Science commented: "The recommended amount of sleep for children 6 to 12 years of age is 9-12 hours.

READ MORE: Scientists reveal why we feel so tired in the morning

“However, sleep disturbances are common among children and adolescents around the world due to the increasing demand on their time from school, increased screen time use, and sports and social activities.”

Professor Edmund Rolls from the University of Warwick's Department of Computer Science, who also authored the study, commented: "These are important associations that have been identified between sleep duration in children, brain structure, and cognitive and mental health measures, but further research is needed to discover the underlying reasons for these relationships."

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