Longitudinal data were collected on parent-reported sleep problems for 916 twins (465 female, 451 male). Parents reported their children's sleep problems at ages 4, 5, and 7 years, and then each year from ages 9 through 16 years. Sleep problems were based on seven questions of the Child-Behavior Checklist.
A subset of 568 of the children completed laboratory assessments of executive functioning at age 17. Participants completed three computerized tasks for each executive function.
The authors note that an association of sleep problems with executive functioning may be particularly important since executive functions are considered key mechanisms in many models of cognitive development and disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance abuse problems, mood problems and more general problems of externalizing behavior. Many of these disorders are also associated with sleep loss and other sleep problems.
According to the authors, these findings emphasize the importance of early recognition and treatment of persistent sleep problems in childhood and adolescence. In particular, parents should be aware of their child's patterns of sleepwalking, sleep talking, being overtired or sleeping more than others. There is evidence that recognizing and addressing sleep problems early may reduce any negative impact on executive control.
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American Academy of Sleep Medicine