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Lack of sleep and bullying may go hand in hand (image via flickr)

Almost every school has a bully. A new study completed at the University of Michigan indicates that making sure children get enough sleep may be one of the best ways to combat bullying in grade school.  Although the team originally set out to establish a link between sleep disordered breathing conditions like sleep apnea and problems with aggressive behavior in school children, their findings show that any disorder or disturbance that keeps kids from getting a good night sleep may double the likelihood that they will exhibit some type of aggression at school. Lack of sleep may lead your child to bully.

The study included 341 students in grades 2-5 and included children with known conduct problems and those without.  Thirty-two percent (32%) of the students in the study had been rated by a parent or a teacher to have some kind of conduct problem and twenty-three percent (23%) of all the participants had symptoms associated with sleep disordered breathing.  The initial results seemed to support the theory that there was a link between sleep disordered breathing and bullying, showing that children with the condition were more than twice as likely to have conduct problems in the classroom.  However, after looking at the data more closely, the team realized that daytime sleepiness, regardless of the cause, was the real predictor of bad behavior.

Sleepiness is children can have several causes.  Children can suffer from a sleep disorder like sleep disordered breathing or night terrors.  Sometimes the hectic schedules and non-stop pace of modern life keep children from falling asleep on time or from getting the amount of sleep they need.  The use of computers, video games, televisions, and cell phones while in bed may also impact the amount and quality of sleep they are getting each night.

Because of the small study size, experts in sleep medicine agree that the results do not provide enough evidence to demonstrate cause and effect between sleepiness and its leading a child to bully.  However, the results are intriguing and point out the need for additional investigation and further study into the possible link between sleep and behavior problems.  With more data including the participants sleep duration and a larger participant pool, researchers may be able to prove the correlation and help parents and teachers create programs to more effectively identify the bully and combat a root cause that leads to bullying in schools.

Children in this age group need 10-11 hours of sleep each night to protect their health and well-being.  For parents, there are several things you can do to help make sure your child is sleeping enough and avoid the behavior problems that may come from being over tired.  Here are three things you can do tonight to help your grade schooler get a good night’s sleep.


1.  Turn Off and Tune Out

One of the greatest obstacles to adequate sleep is electronic use just before children head to bed and after bedtime.  To help them get the sleep they need, declare bedrooms a no-electronic zone an hour before bed.  Keep televisions, computers, and game systems off and cell phones in the kitchen to limit temptation.


2.  Activity

Make sure your child is getting enough physical activity during the day.  Lack of exercise can have a big impact on sleep and making sure your children are active during the day will help make sure they are sleeping well at night.


3.  Schedule Sleep

One of the most important things parent’s can do is to keep them on a schedule, a sleep schedule.  By setting and keeping to a consistent wake-up time in the morning and bedtime at night, parents not only help build good habits but also instill good attitudes about sleep that will last long after the grade school years.


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