Children’s expressions show poor sleep: study
The research has been published in the “Affective Science Journal”. âSleep problems in children are consistently linked to lower social competence and more problems in peer relationships, but we really don’t understand what drives these associations,â Alfano said. Based on the results of some of his previous research, Alfano hypothesized that the answers may lie in part in the way children’s faces express their emotions when they are tired.
To test this theory, Alfano and his colleagues examined 37 children aged 7 to 11 in two emotional lab assessments; one when the children were well rested and another after two nights of partial sleep restriction. During these assessments, the children viewed positive (think kittens and ice cream) and negative (think getting shot and ferocious dogs) images on a computer screen while a high camera definition recorded their facial expressions. Parents of participants provided reports on their child’s social functioning at this time and approximately two years later.
âAs we suspected, children who displayed less positive facial expressions in response to pleasurable images when sleep was restricted would have more social problems two years later, even controlling for previous social problems,â Alfano said. Although the competing relationships between changes in facial expressions and social problems related to sleep have not been found, Alfano has suggested that it may be due to developmental differences in social behavior and peer relationships.
âFor young children, more explicit behaviors such as sharing and taking turns may be more important for friendships than subtle facial expressions. However, emotional expression becomes more important with age,â Alfano explained. . âFacial expressions not only allow others to understand how you are feeling, but they are known to have a contagious effect on how others feel,â she said.
The findings supported a growing body of research that pointed to poor sleep quality in childhood, predicted later socio-emotional issues, and also indicated the importance of studies exploring how sleep affects multiple facets of health. mental health and well-being of children. Facial expression, a central aspect of social communication, is one aspect of emotion where sleep loss has taken its toll.