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Lesser Amounts of Sleep in Early Childhood Tied to Cognitive, Behavioral Problems

New research reported by the Harvard Gazette shows that children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have problems with attention, emotional control and peer relationships in mid-childhood. The Harvard pediatrician who did the study said, “The associations between insufficient sleep and poorer functioning persisted even after adjusting for several factors that could influence the relationship.”

The topic of sleep-deprived children is making the news more often lately, along with the emotional problems listed by this Harvard study. Unfortunately, the answer that many physicians have for both sleep-deprivation and emotional problems — whether you’re an adult or child — is a prescription drug, when there are other ways to address the need for sleep.

For example, children diagnosed with ADHD were found to do better with behavioral therapy and exercise — two things that can aid in sleep. Other findings proved the obvious: Eliminating sugary, caffeinated drinks can also help when it’s time to go to bed.

Besides causing lack of sleep, consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks has repeatedly been identified as a risk factor for metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, so it’s a good idea to limit — or preferably eliminate — sugary, caffeinated beverages from your and children’s diets.

Other helpful ideas for helping sleep include turning off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime, making sure that you’re sleeping a totally dark room, napping wisely — too much sleep during the day can impede your body’s circadian rhythm at night — and getting the room temperature down to 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
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