Sleep-Restricted Toddlers Show Similar Behaviors To Depressed and Anxious Adults

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For toddlers, naps may prevent mood disorders later in life: Photo by Holly

Is naptime even more important than you thought?

For parents of a young child, nap time may be the only break in the long day and night when Mom and Dad can recharge their batteries, get some important work done, or even take a nap of their own. A recent study from the University of Colorado Bolder shows that in addition to the benefits to parents, taking a nap may be more important to the child than you’d think. Dr. Monique LeBourgeois, the lead research on the study titled “Acute sleep restriction effects on emotion responses in 30- to 36-month-old children,” examined the facial responses of toddlers to various stimuli over a period of eleven days and found that naptime provides cognitive and emotional benefits to little ones.

Sleep Restriction in Toddlers

Dr. LeBourgeois and her team provided toddlers with a 90 minute nap every day for five days, each day recording the facial features of the children as they attempted to put together a complete puzzle and a puzzle that included a wrong piece which rendered the puzzle unsolvable. The researchers used the expressions of the toddlers following a nap as a baseline to compare against a sleep-restricted toddler.

After the five days with naps, researchers began restricting the toddlers, skipping the naps. After staying awake through nap-time, the toddlers were asked to solve both puzzles again. Following the restricted sleep pattern, toddler expressions were compared to their expressions when naps were allowed.

The results of this study showed a reduction in the amount of positive expressions by 34 percent. Confused responses decreased by 39 percent, and negative facial responses increased by 31 percent. In addition, the napless children took longer to solve the puzzles, and were slower to show signs of understanding something was wrong, defined as confusion in this study.

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