Children’s Mental Health Affected By Their Sleep

Author Shirley Amy
February 10, 2020

News just in: researchers at the University of Warwick have reported: “a link between children’s sleep duration and depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and poor cognitive performance,” in the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry. This was the first time a large-scale analysis of children’s sleep duration was carried out. In the past, research was focused on the association between psychiatric and cognitive issues, and low sleep duration in adults.

child girl sleeping

Putting a Spotlight on the Research

The study involved 11,000 children (aged 9 to 11), from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development dataset. The researchers conducted this large-scale analysis of children’s sleep duration, in order to ascertain how it is linked to brain structure, as well as psychiatric problems, including depression and cognition.


The scientists’ analysis of association studies, indicated that: “measures of depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and poor cognitive performance in the children, were associated with shorter sleep duration. Moreover, the depressive problems were associated with short sleep duration one year later.” These findings are extremely important, and hopefully, parents can be swayed to ensure that their children are getting sufficient quality sleep both on school nights and weekends and holidays.

Sleep Time

“A previous study showed that about 60% of adolescents in the United States get less than eight hours of rest on school nights”

A University of Warwick computer science professor, Jianfeng Feng, noted: “The recommended amount of sleep for children 6 to 12 years of age is 9-12 hours. 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.” In fact, there is now substantial research which shows how detrimental screen time on mobile phones, tablet, laptops, and desk top computers, is to the health of both adults and children. And now, children are being born into a high tech world, and suffering the negative consequences of WI-FI, right from the cradle.

Big Data Analysis

By applying a big data analysis approach, the university team discovered a link between the: “lower brain volume of brain areas involved the orbitofrontal cortex, prefrontal and temporal cortex, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus, and the shorter sleep duration.” Deliberating the findings, Feng remarked that: the children who had less than seven hours sleep: showed 53% higher  behavioral issues, and 7.8% lower cognitively, compared to the children who had 9-11 hours of sleep. These results clearly highlight the need for children to receive the appropriate amount of sleep, in order to enjoy both optimal mental cognition and psycholigical health.

Looking to the Future

Computer science department professor, Edmund Rolls, noted: “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.”

Sleep’s implications on both mental and physical health, are without doubt, extremely important. To that end, if children are encouraged to stop their screen time by early in the evening, it could go a long way to shaping the way they sleep, their health, and the way they are interact with technology when they are older.

Author Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.