Children's sleep and cognitive performance: a cross-domain analysis of change over time

Dev Psychol. 2011 Nov;47(6):1504-14. doi: 10.1037/a0025535. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


Relations between changes in children's cognitive performance and changes in sleep problems were examined over a 3-year period, and family socioeconomic status, child race/ethnicity, and gender were assessed as moderators of these associations. Participants were 250 second- and third-grade (8-9 years old at Time 1) boys and girls. At each assessment, children's cognitive performance (Verbal Comprehension, Decision Speed) was measured using the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities, and sleep problems (Sleepiness, Sleep/Wake Problems) were collected via self-report. Individual growth models revealed that children who reported increases in Sleepiness exhibited little growth in Verbal Comprehension over time compared with their peers who reported decreases in Sleepiness, resulting in a nearly 11-point cognitive deficit by the end of the study. These associations were not found for Sleep/Wake Problems or Decision Speed. Child race/ethnicity and gender moderated these associations, with Sleepiness serving as a vulnerability factor for poor cognitive outcomes, especially among African American children and girls. Differences in cognitive performance for children with high and low Sleepiness trajectories ranged from 16 to 19 points for African American children and from 11 to 19 points for girls. Results build substantially on existing literature examining associations between sleep and cognitive functioning in children and are the first to demonstrate that children's sleep trajectories over 3 waves were associated with changes in their cognitive performance over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Black or African American / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Comprehension
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Learning
  • White People / psychology