Kids who bully, are aggressive are twice as likely to have sleep problems

May 31, 2011, University of Michigan

Children who are bullies or have conduct problems at school, are more likely to be sleepy during the day according to University of Michigan Medical School researchers.

Researchers looked at elementary school students in the Ypsilanti, Michigan public schools who had exhibited conduct problems like bullying or discipline referrals and found that there was a two-fold higher risk for symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, particularly among these students. The study was published last week in the journal .

"What this study does is raise the possibility that poor , from whatever cause, can indeed play into bullying or other aggressive behaviors – a major problem that many schools are trying to address," says Louise O'Brien, Ph.D., assistant professor in U-M's Sleep Disorders Center and the departments of Neurology and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

"Our schools do push the importance of healthy eating and exercise, but this study highlights that good sleep is just as essential to a healthy lifestyle."

O'Brien said the study showed that sleepiness seemed to be the biggest driver of the behavior problems, not the snoring, which is often a more obvious symptom associated with sleep-disordered breathing.

Sleep-disordered breathing is an umbrella term for a spectrum of breathing problems during sleep, which range from habitual snoring to obstructive sleep apnea, where the airway collapses at night.

The sleepiness experienced by the children in the study could be caused by sleep-disordered breathing, but also by many other factors like chaotic home environments, fragmented sleep or not enough sleep because of too much electronic stimulus from televisions, cell phones or computers in the bedroom, says O'Brien, who is on the faculty of U-M's Sleep Disorders Center.

O'Brien says that a longitudinal study is needed. Although there are other reasons for these behaviors, if sleepiness does contribute to aggressive behavior as this study suggests, a significant proportion of bullying in children might be eliminated by efforts to reduce children's daytime sleepiness.

"We know that the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain is sensitive to sleep deprivation, and this area is also related to emotional control, decision making and social behavior," says O'Brien.

"So impairment in the prefrontal cortex may lead to aggression or disruptive behavior, delinquency or even substance abuse. But the good news is that some of these behaviors can be improved. can be treated, and schools or parents can encourage kids to get more sleep."

O'Brien recommends parents remove electronic devices from bedrooms, make getting enough sleep a priority and encourage children to sleep for the recommended amount of time without interruption. It is recommended that children in pre-school sleep between 11-13 hours a night, and school-aged children between 10-11 hours of sleep a night.

"Given the high prevalence of aggressive, bullying and disruptive behaviors in schools and the long-lasting consequences for both perpetrators and victims, more study on this issue is needed," she says.

Explore further: Sleepiness in children linked to obesity, asthma

Related Stories

Sleepiness in children linked to obesity, asthma

May 16, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Obese, asthmatic, anxious or depressed children are more likely to experience excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, according to Penn State College of Medicine sleep researchers.

Recommended for you

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.