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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Prof Helen L. Ball

Robinson-Smith, Lyn & Ball, Helen L. (2017). Sleep and cognitive function in young children. The International Journal of Birth and Parent Education 5(1): 27-30.

Author(s) from Durham


The emerging picture from research studies that have attempted to define what ‘normal’ sleep duration might be for young children is that sleep duration is subject to great variability resulting from biological, environmental and social factors. Parents are concerned about their child’s sleep for important reasons, given the wealth of evidence linking sleep with developmental outcomes. Insufficient sleep has a number of daytime consequences, predominately impairment in cognitive function which is more pronounced in younger than older children and is associated with family socio-demographics. Bedtime routines are related to better sleep outcomes which are achieved the more frequently the routine is implemented. When children experience insufficient night-time sleep they may compensate for this through daytime napping; a behaviour which also supports cognitive function and facilitates subject specific learning. Encouraging parents to implement and develop appropriate bedtime routines and helping them to identify cues relating to their child’s individual sleep need will contribute to supporting cognitive function and learning.