By Robyn Koslowitz, Psychology Today, November 3, 2019
Only half of children in the United States routinely get enough sleep each night, and this has significant effects on their academic performance and social, and emotional well-being. A comprehensive study analyzed responses from parents or caregivers of 49,050 children, 6 to 17 years old, who were part of the 2016-2017 cohort of the National Survey of Children’s Health. They were queried about how many nights of sleep a randomly selected child in their household slept on an average weeknight. These results were then correlated with measures of “flourishing”, such as interest in learning new things, interest in succeeding in school, and emotional self-regulation.
The researchers sounded the alarm on the chronic and additive effects of insufficient sleep. Earlier studies suggest insufficient sleep leads to physical health consequences, such as lowered immunity, obesity, increased risk of developing sub-clinical depression, and poor ability to regulate mood, attention, and decreased academic performance.
The Cascade Effect of Under-Sleeping:
These factors all trigger each other in a cascade effect. A child with less sleep will have less energy to engage in physical activity, and poor sleep is linked to higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, as well as poorer ability to manage stress hormones like cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol and ghrelin lead to cravings for ultra-processed food, like candy, and less motivation to exercise.