Is lack of sleep involved in behavourial problems?

A recent Finnish study carried out at the University of Helsinki and National Institute of Health and Welfare tracked the sleep of 280 healthy children (146 girls and 134 boys) using parental reporting as well as actigraphs, or devices worn on the wrist to monitor sleep.

The children whose average sleep duration as measured by actigraphs was shorter than 7.7 hours had a higher hyperactivity and impulsivity score and a higher ADHD total score, but a similar inattention score to those sleeping for a longer time. In multivariate statistical models, short sleep duration remained a statistically significant predictor of hyperactivity and impulsivity, and sleeping difficulties were associated with hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. There were no significant interactions between short sleep and sleeping difficulties.

The findings suggest that maintaining adequate sleep schedules among children is likely to be important in preventing behavioural symptoms. But even though inadequate sleep seems to have the potential to affect behaviour and performance the researchers emphasised that intervention studies are needed to confirm the causality.

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First Published in July 2009

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