Sleep is a fundamental, and modifiable, regulatory developmental process that has the potential to affect many areas of child functioning including self-control, emotion regulation, school readiness, and health, including obesity (Miller, 2015). We conduct research on the biological, behavioral, and social-environmental aspects of sleep with the goal to improve child health broadly. Investigating mechanisms and correlates of sleep is an important first step in developing interventions. We have found associations between poor sleep and obesity risk (Miller et al 2014; Miller et al 2015), behavior problems in toddlers (Conway in press), and child temperament (Wilson, Miller et al 2014). Low-income preschoolers with sub-optimal sleep environments obtained less sleep overall and went to bed later than children whose parents reported better sleeping environments (Wilson, Miller, et al., 2014a; Chung et al, 2014); in collaboration with a community partner (Sweet Dreamzzz) we found that a brief classroom based sleep intervention improved sleep among children attending Head Start (Wilson et al 2014).
Based in Colorado, the new Sleep and the Neural Basis of Emotion Processing in Childhood study involves a sleep-training intervention with preschoolers. When individuals are “underslept”, their emotion regulation capacity suffers. We are examining whether increasing sleep can change the neurobiological processes associated with emotional and behavioral regulation in young children.
This research is a collaboration with Dr. Monique LeBourgeois and is funded by NIMH (R01 MH086566; NIMH R21 MH100765).