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Could an Extra 27 Minutes of Sleep Help Your Child Behave Better?

Mr. Crankypants here needs more sleep.

It’s pretty well known that tired kids are cranky kids. But a new study shows that even 27 extra minutes of sleep produces a significant difference in behavior — one that teachers noticed.

Children aged 7 to 12 need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep–an amount that most elementary school children aren’t getting, according to the study, which was released online today and will be in the November issue of Pediatrics. According to the study authors, an estimated 64 percent of school-age children (ages 6 to 12) go to bed later than 9 p.m.

That doesn’t seem really late, until you do the math: Elementary school-aged children need a minimum 10 hours of sleep. If I get my kids up at 7 a.m., they have to be asleep (not fooling around with their toothpaste) at 9 p.m.

“Extending sleep opens the door to an effective, feasible way to improve children’s health and performance,” said study author Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Research Center in Quebec, Canada.

The researchers looked at a group of typically-developing children aged 7 through 11 for their study. None of the children had behavioral, health, or academic issues. In a blind, randomized study, some of the children got to stay up later (they average 54 minutes less sleep), and some children were put to bed earlier (they averaged 27 minutes extra sleep). Some kids just kept to their usual routines.

Teachers, who didn’t know which kids were participating, were then asked to score the children’s behavior in terms of ability to regulate emotions, restless-impulsive behaviors, and daytime sleepiness. The kids with extra sleep had significantly better performance. Besides being obviously tired, kids who were shorted on sleep were measurably quicker to cry, more easily frustrated,  and quicker to lose their tempers.

“We know that sleep deprivation can affect memory, creativity, verbal creativity and even things like judgment and motivation and being (engaged) in the classroom,” sleep expert Dr. Judith Owens told CNN.  “When you’re sleepy, (being engaged) isn’t going to happen,” said Dr. Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.

Dr. Owens also noted thatwhen children have trouble coping with day-to-day situations it can affect a child’s relationship with teachers, as well as their success in school, social skills and the ability to get along with peers.

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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