Texas Health Steps

Sleep Contributes to Cognitive and Emotional Development

boy standing in front of brain illustration on chalkboard

Good sleep, healthy nutrition and regular physical activity are interrelated. Sleep is a foundational pillar of health. Sleep also is a health indicator, sometimes signaling the presence of an underlying health problem. Monitoring children’s sleep patterns and routines is a powerful surveillance tool for health-care providers.

Human sleep patterns change throughout life, most dramatically in early childhood, a period of rapid cognitive development and physical growth. For example, infants need up to 16 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, and teens function best with up to 10 hours of sleep. During a child’s early development, sleep is a primary activity of the brain. The groundwork is being laid for learning, memory and emotional regulation, and related brain structure is in development.

Throughout childhood, sleep plays an important role in healthy cognitive and psychosocial development. When children get the recommended hours of sleep on a regular basis, they have an improved quality of life. That healthier baseline of cognition, emotions and behavior can enhance family life overall.

  • Well-rested children have better attention and behavior.
  • Learning, including vocabulary acquisition, and memory are enhanced.
  • Children can better regulate their emotions when they have sufficient sleep.
  • Children’s overall physical and mental health improve with regular, age-appropriate sleep.