Children With Good Sleep Habits Adjust Better To Kindergarten Than Sleepier Classmates: Study

Children who get proper sleep tend to be more successful at adjusting to kindergarten compared to their sleepier classmates, a new study has found.

Kindergarten is a big and exciting adjustment for children, and parents often find various ways to prepare their kids for this new phase in their young lives. One way they could do this, based on the results of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is by helping their kids to form good sleeping habits.

For their work, the authors aimed to look at the link between children's sleep and their "socioemotional, learning engagement, executive functioning, and academic outcomes" in their kindergarten year. The researchers looked at three specific measures, such as the amount of sleep the kids got in a 24-hour period, if they got 10 hours or more of sleep at night and the "proportion of 24-hour periods per week that children slept 10 or more hours."

As the authors explained, children at the age of 5 are recommended to have 10 to 13 hours of sleep. They hypothesized that those who had more sleep would have better outcomes than those who had less sleep.

They looked at 221 families according to HealthDay. To measure the children's sleep, they wore wrist devices in "seven-day bursts" at four specific periods during the year. These are pre-K (July–August), early K (late September), mid-K (late November) and late K (mid-to-late April).

Indeed, the results revealed that the children who regularly had 10 or more hours of sleep at night had "more favorable K outcomes in both socioemotional, learning engagement, and academic domains." They were the ones who "transitioned more successfully" compared to the children who had "less regular" sleeping patterns, the researchers noted. They were also more able to maintain their sleep pattern throughout the year. 

"(R)egularity of 10-plus hours of nighttime sleep was a more robust predictor of adjustment than overall levels of daily child sleep and regularity of 10-plus hours of sleep per 24 hours," the researchers wrote. "… the more consistently at least 10 hours of sleep occur during the night, the better is children's adjustment."

"When they were getting 10-plus hours of sleep during the night specifically, that's what predicted the kindergarten adjustment in socio-emotional areas and learning engagement, and how well they were getting along with teachers and also academic domains," the study's lead author, Douglas Teti of Pennsylvania State University, said, as per HealthDay.

According to the researchers, this shows that parents may need to pay "particular attention" to their children's sleep, making sure that they have 10 hours of night sleep even before they start school so they could adjust better throughout the year. They recommended starting interventions "well before" starting kindergarten.

This doesn't mean, however, that kids are "doomed" to fail in school if they don't have good sleeping habits from the beginning, HealthDay noted.

"It doesn't mean that at all, but if you can make the child's first experience in formal schooling successful, they're that much more motivated to stay engaged in school, to stay engaged with teachers and to do well," Teti said further, noting the important role parents play in building good sleeping habits.

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