Mindfulness training linked to better sleep in at-risk children

Key points to remember

  • A new study has linked mindfulness training to better sleep in at-risk children.
  • The quality of sleep is directly correlated with both mental and physical health, including learning and behavior. Mindfulness training uses breathing exercises, relaxation, and slow movements to help you become aware of your emotions and regulate the stress response.
  • Children in low socioeconomic neighborhoods experience higher levels of physical and mental stress.

A study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found a link between mindfulness training and sleep quality in children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The results further increase the positive benefits of teaching mindfulness to children, which helps them use their bodies to reduce stress, as well as promote internal rest, relaxation and self-regulation.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, used home polysomnography to assess the sleep patterns of 115 third and fifth graders before, during and after the study.

Children who participated in the twice-weekly mindfulness program during their physical education (PE) class over a two-year period gained an average of 74 minutes of sleep per night, while the control group who participated in regular PE activities lost an average of 64 minutes of sleep per night.

The school districts that helped implement the study serve children from two surrounding low-income, predominantly Hispanic communities in the Bay Area of ​​California. In these areas, high rates of crime, violence, affected housing and limited food options create stressors for children that affect the quality of their sleep and other areas of their lives, including learning.

“If we can step in before the critical window in adolescents, before they hit puberty, and teach them how to calm their nervous systems by reducing stress, then we can help regulate their body’s response to stress.” Christina Chick, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in psychiatry at Stanford University and lead scientist on the study, says Verywell.

Mindfulness training program

The study used Pure Power, a mindfulness training program developed and offered to the public for free by the nonprofit. Pure edge. The program is designed to help educate students on how to train their body to relax and manage stress by:

  • Focus your attention on the present
  • Slow and deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga based movement
  • Define stress and how to identify it

The program did not cover information on healthy sleep patterns (which could skew the study results). It was taught to students by their class teacher and yoga instructor who has been trained in the positive effects of mindfulness using breathing, movement and relaxation techniques to promote self-regulation.

Why children need a good sleep

Research has consistently shown that there is a link between poor quality sleep and negative effects on physical and mental health.

the The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-aged children sleep 9 to 11 hours per night and that adolescents sleep 8 to 10 hours. However, a study published in 2017 found that about 46% of eighth graders reported sleeping less than seven hours per night.

the The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-aged children sleep 9 to 11 hours per night and that adolescents sleep 8 to 10 hours. However, a study published in 2017 found that about 46% of eighth graders reported sleeping less than seven hours per night.

The health consequences of poor sleep in children can affect not only their ability to learn and concentrate in class, but can also affect their behavior, school attendance and grades, and prepare them for poor performance. health in adulthood.

Some of the potential negative results include:

  • Alcohol consumption disorder
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Type 2 diabetes

Children who live in neighborhoods of low socioeconomic status tend to experience higher levels of stress and adverse childhood experiences related to their living environment and their physical safety, which put them at a higher risk of sleep disorders.

Not getting enough sleep, in turn, contributes to learning loss, poor academic performance, and negative behavior. Teaching these students mindfulness and empowering them to independently regulate their stress response can have a positive impact on all aspects of their lives.

“When we’re stressed, some things get easier and others more difficult,” says Chick. “Learning new information and new tools when we are stressed is more difficult. But with the practice of mindfulness, regulating stress can become second nature.

How mindfulness promotes self-regulation

Mindfulness has been described as “non-elaborative, non-judgmental awareness” of the present moment. Being aware of your emotions can help you recognize your emotional state and give you an opportunity to think about your reaction before acting impulsively.

Christina Chick, PhD

With the practice of mindfulness, regulating stress can become second nature.

– Christina Chick, PhD

Mindfulness exercises help promote self-regulation and self-control in several ways. Here are some examples :

  • Improve executive control (the logical and reasoned part of your brain)
  • Helps eliminate rumination (“Get out of your head”)
  • Become aware of your emotions before they get out of hand
  • Encourages you to accept and observe your emotions without qualifying them as “good” or “bad”
  • Become aware of physical changes in your body (increased heart rate, rapid breathing)

Becoming self-aware and comfortable with thoughts and emotions is a tool that practicing mindfulness provides for children and adults. It creates a cascade of positive habits that can last a lifetime.

Implement mindfulness practices

Mindfulness has grown in popularity in recent years, and several evidence-based curricula have been developed for schools, parents, and anyone looking to have a positive impact on their mental health.

One of the benefits of practicing mindfulness is that it’s free and you can do it anywhere. From informal YouTube videos to books and formal research-based programs, many nonprofit groups offer engaging mindfulness-based training for free. Most are specially designed for a younger and more mature audience.

“Modeling Mindfulness practices for our children both in the classroom and at home is a great way to get them involved, ”says Chick. “Incorporate a family breathing break or have a teacher ask her students to breathe with her when she is overwhelmed. ”

What it means for you

Mindfulness can help those at risk sleep better, allowing them to get the most out of their studies and other areas of their lives. Practicing mindfulness also helps people identify their feelings and develop coping skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

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