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    Preschoolers’ Mental Health Linked With Sleep, Screentime: Study

    When it comes to developing good sleeping habits for children, there’s no such thing as too early.
    Dec 21, 2023#family#health

    If your young child is resisting going to bed, sleepwalking, or having frequent night terrors, it is time to pay attention.

    A new study by Chinese researchers, published last week in the international journal JAMA Network Open, tracked the lives of 17,182 children between the ages of 3 and 4 and found an association between sleep problems and the emergence of emotional and behavioral difficulties.

    Such early childhood sleep problems were also found to be difficult to fix, with 50% of children who had sleep problems when they entered kindergarten still suffering from them when they left kindergarten.

    Therefore, the researchers recommend early intervention to address sleep disorders among young children to promote their mental health in later years.

    Children require more sleep than adults, with the National Health Commission of China recommending children between the ages of 3 and 5 get between 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day.

    Young children's sleep problems are among the main causes for visits to pediatric services in China, with between 30% and 40% of children under 6 affected. 

    “Sleep problems are strongly associated with excessive daytime sleepiness, inattention, hyperactivity, and emotional-behavioral difficulties in children,” Jiang Fan, a professor at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s School of Medicine who led the study, told the state-run China News Service.

    The study found that children from higher income families or with a more educated mother were less likely to suffer from emotional-behavioral difficulties and had a higher likelihood of resolving them.

    Another study led by Jiang published earlier this month in JAMA Pediatrics found that preschoolers who spend more than an hour a day exposed to a screen are at significantly increased risk of mental health problems.

    However, the impact varies depending on the type of content watched, with educational content causing less harm than entertainment programs or programs not aimed at children.

    The Shanghai Children’s Medical Center recommends parents take away screens such as TVs and computers from young children to help improve the quality of their sleep.

    The World Health Organization recommends children under the age of 2 avoid screens entirely, while those between the ages of 2 and 5 should not spend more than an hour a day sitting watching a screen.

    However, 76% of children in China are exposed to screens before the age of 2, while 78.6% of 3-year-olds entering kindergarten exceeded the WHO’s recommended daily screen time.

    Excessive screen exposure among children is a global issue, the researchers noted, with 85% of Canadian children and 74% of Australian children of the same age also exceeding recommended screen times.

    Editor: Vincent Chow.

    (Header image: IC)