Journal article

Sleep as a protective factor of children’s executive functions: A study during COVID-19 confinement


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  • 11.01.2023
Published in:
  • PLOS ONE / Spitschan, Manuel. - Public Library of Science (PLoS). - 2023, vol. 18, no. 1, p. 1-17
English Confinements due to the COVID-19 outbreak affected sleep and mental health of adults, adolescents and children. Already preschool children experienced acutely worsened sleep, yet the possible resulting effects on executive functions remain unexplored. Longitudinally, sleep quality predicts later behavioral-cognitive outcomes. Accordingly, we propose chil- dren’s sleep behavior as essential for healthy cognitive development. By using the COVID- 19 confinement as an observational-experimental intervention, we tested whether worsened children’s sleep affects executive functions outcomes 6 months downstream. We hypothe- sized that acutely increased night awakenings and sleep latency relate to reduced later executive functions. With an online survey during the acute confinement phase we analyzed sleep behavior in 45 children (36–72 months). A first survey referred to the (retrospective) time before and (acute) situation during confinement, and a follow-up survey assessed executive functions 6 months later (6 months retrospectively). Indeed, acutely increased nighttime awakenings related to reduced inhibition at FOLLOW-UP. Associations were spe- cific to the confinement-induced sleep-change and not the sleep behavior before confine- ment. These findings highlight that specifically acute changes of children’s nighttime sleep during sensitive periods are associated with behavioral outcome consequences. This aligns with observations in animals that inducing poor sleep during developmental periods affects later brain function.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de Psychologie
  • English
Open access status
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