by Evan Lawrence 

How Can Lack of Sleep Impact a Child’s Physical Health? 

• Studies have found a direct link between children’s sleep health and their diets.

• Bad dieting could result in several possible behaviors that are related to executive function, including increased consumption of high caloric foods and loss-of-control eating.

• However, the main way that a child’s physical health is affected by lack of sleep is through insomnia, which has been shown to have a correlation with impairments in tasks relating to executive control.

Where is This Effect of Sleep on EF’s Located in the Brain?

• Sleep likely plays a significant role in the regulation of specific brain networks, especially those located in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is the location of executive functioning in the brain.

• Executive functions like decision making are located in the PFC, and decision making has been proven to be greatly influenced by sleep, or the lack thereof.

How is a Child’s Overall Cognition Affected by Lack of Sleep?

• Over a short period of time, not getting enough sleep can lead to deficiencies in executive functions, such as:

Working memory
Task initiation

• Over a longer period of time, research has found a correlation between lack of sleep and deficits in a child’s self-regulatory abilities (e.g. following instructions).

• On top of this, sleep has been proven to play a rather large role in the improvement of both executive functioning and academic preparedness.

How Can You Help as a Parent?

There are many things you can do to help your children with this! There are many strategies that can be put in place, in order to help your child’s sleep habits.

1) Limit screens and electronics before bed. The blue light that comes from these devices hinders the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that tells our bodies to go to bed.

2) Set up a nighttime routine with your child. Include brushing teeth, reading, etc.

3) Maintaining regular sleep and wake-up times. This is especially for children who have challenges with executive function control.

CDC-Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day, by Age Group

1-2 years: 11-14 hours

3.5 years: 10-13 hours

6-12 years: 9-12 hours

13-18 years: 8-10 hours

Over 18 years: 7+ hours 

Crista A. Hopp, M.A.
Crista A. Hopp, M.A.

Crista is trained to coach as an Academic coach, Executive Function (EF) coach, and individuals with ADHD. Crista can be reached through her website at