"Healthy sleep is critical for children's psychological well-being," said principal investigator of the study Candice Alfano, Associate Psychology Professor at the University of Houston in the US. "Continually experiencing inadequate sleep can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and other types of emotional problems," Alfano noted.
The findings are based on temporary sleep restrictions in 50 pre-adolescent children between the ages of seven to 11. Inadequate sleep impacts children's emotional health not only by creating more negative emotions, but also by altering positive emotional experiences, the results showed.
For example, after just two nights of poor sleep, children derive less pleasure from positive things, are less reactive to them and less likely to recall details about these positive experiences later. When their normal nightly sleep habits are adequate in duration, however, they find these emotional effects are less apparent, the study found.
"Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene and physical activity," Alfano said in a University of Houston statement.
"If your child has problems waking up in the morning or is sleepy during the day, then their nighttime sleep is probably inadequate. This can result for several reasons, such as a bedtime that is too late, non-restful sleep during the night or an inconsistent sleep schedule," Alfano pointed out.