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Poor sleep linked to kids who bully

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Sleep and behavior, bullying linked.

Sleep disorders may play a role in aggressive behavior.

A study from University of Michigan researchers found kids with behavior problems like aggression and bullying are twice as likely to have some sort of sleep disorder that leads to daytime sleepiness.

Poor sleep may contribute to kids' behavior problems

The study was conducted on elementary school children with conduct problems in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which was published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

In the study, daytime sleepiness from disordered breathing, chaos at home, internet or cell phone use or any other cause of interrupted sleep was consistently linked to kids with behavior problems.

Louise O’Brien, Ph.D., assistant professor in U-M’s Sleep Disorders Center and the departments of Neurology and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery said, “What this study does is raise the possibility that poor sleep, from whatever cause, can indeed play into bullying or other aggressive behaviors – a major problem that many schools are trying to address.”

The finding suggests the need for more studies, explains O’Brien, who says if daytime sleepiness if a cause for bullying and other aggressive behaviors, the problem could be eliminated.

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Because the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is sensitive to sleep deprivation, but also responsible for emotional control and social behavior, O’Brien says it might be possible the two are indeed linked.

“Given the high prevalence of aggressive, bullying and disruptive behaviors in schools and the long-lasting consequences for both perpetrators and victims, more study on this issue is needed,” she says.

O’Brien who is on the faculty of U-M’s Sleep Disorders Center suggests parents ensure children get uninterrupted sleep by removing electronic devices from the bedroom and making sleep a priority.

Children in pre-school should get 11 to 13 hours of undisturbed sleep nightly. School age children need 10 to 11 hours a night.

Disturbed sleep might play a role in why kids bully and become aggressive, suggested by the study. Efforts taken to ensure children get enough sleep might curb aggressive behavior and bullying that has become more prevalent and should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

Sleep Medicine: doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2010.11.012
"Aggressive behavior, bullying, snoring, and sleepiness in schoolchildren"
Louise M. O’Brien et al

Image credit: Morguefile