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Four-Year-Olds Need Their Sleep to Perform Well, Study Says

Educators have long known the amount of sleep high school students get can affect their academic performance, but a new study shows sleep is important even for the youngest learners.

Four-year-olds who have a regular bed time and sleep at least 11 hours a night performed better on developmental measures. Those 4-year-olds with less sleep had lower test scores in abilities in language, reading, and math skills, according to SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

"Getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children's emergent literacy and language skills," said lead author Erika Gaylor, an early-childhood-policy researcher at SRI. "Pediatricians can easily promote regular bedtimes with parents and children, behaviors which in turn lead to healthy sleep."

The study looks at a nationally representative sample of about 8,000 children who completed a direct assessment at age 4 as part of the government's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort. Parents were interviewed by phone when their children were 9-months-old, and again when their child was 4.

The research was presented last week, in San Antonio, at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

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