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Too little sleep may jeopardize young kids’ development, study finds

(Yiu Yu Hoi/Getty Images)

For children in elementary school, regularly getting less than nine hours of sleep per night may hinder their neurocognitive development, according to a study led by University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers and published in the journal Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

The study involved 8,323 children, ages 9 and 10, who were enrolled in a large, long-term study of brain development and children’s health. Comparing children who got the recommended amount of sleep for their age — nine to 12 hours a night — with those who slept less, the new research found differences in brain regions responsible for memory, intelligence and well-being. Greater mental health problems — such as depression, anxiety and impulsive behavior — were linked to insufficient sleep, as were difficulties with memory, problem-solving and decision-making.

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The effects on the children’s academic and social lives lasted for at least two years, “suggesting long-lasting consequences of insufficient sleep,” the researchers wrote. Not getting enough sleep has been shown to be fairly common among children and teens. For instance, a recently published study from the National Institutes of Health found that 9- to 13-year-olds average just 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep a night, considerably less than recommended.

To help increase children’s sleep time, pediatricians urge parents to make sufficient sleep a family priority and to encourage such things as daytime physical activity, a regular nighttime routine and no screen time for an hour before bedtime.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.