Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

Monique LeBourgeois

Second Advisor

Alena Grabowski

Third Advisor

Lameese Akacem

Abstract

Introduction: Poor sleep health in early childhood is known to negatively affect behavioral self-regulation, which is linked to reduced school readiness and poor later life outcomes. The aim of this study was to understand the role of sleep loss in behavioral self-regulation strategies and inhibitory control using a standard task (Forbidden Toy) that measures a child’s capacity to delay gratification. Compared to a day when toddlers had a daytime nap, it was hypothesized that after acute nap deprivation they would have a shorter latency to touching the toy and would resort to more immature, maladaptive self-regulation strategies to delay gratification.

Methods:In this experimental, counterbalanced study, 25 healthy children (11 males, 34.1 ± 2.3 months-old)followed an sleep stabilization schedule for ≥5 days prior to a baseline (nap) and one day of acute nap deprivation condition (no-nap). Inhibitory control was assessed using an age-appropriate, attractive toy. Children were left alone with the toy for a 3-minute waiting period and videotaped. The videos were coded for latency to touch and 11 discrete self-regulation strategies. McNemar repeated measures Chi-Squared tests were used to compare between conditions: 1) the number of children who touched the toy and 2) the number of children who employed each of the strategies. Paired t-tests (one-tailed) were used to compared the latencies to touch and the percentage of time each strategy was employed between conditions.

Results:There was no difference between the baseline and sleep restriction conditions in the number of children who touched the toy (X-squared= 0, p = 0.50) and or their mean latency to touch (t = 0.27, p = 0.393). Of the 11 strategies coded, no significant differences were found in the number of children who used each of the strategies or the percent time the children spent using each strategy: visual inspection (t = 0.35, p = 0.37); self-soothing (t = 0.62, p = 0.27); talk about task rules (t = -1.32, p = 0.10); irrelevant speech (t = -0.04, p = 0.49); unintelligible speech

(t = 0.16, p = 0.44); fidgeting (t = 0.38, p = 0.35); removing self (t = 1.03, p = 0.16); physical restraint (t = 1.64, p = 0.06); passive waiting (t = 0.80, p = 0.22); object distraction (t = -1.17, p = 0.13); and social bids (t = -0.03, p = 0.49).

Discussion:These findings indicate that acute nap deprivation in toddlerhood may not have an immediate impact on inhibitory control and self-regulation strategies. This is inconsistent with other findings reported in the field, and limitations in the task administration and contextual factors (e.g. socio-economic status) may contribute to the conflicting results. Through early childhood, there are striking developmental changes in behavior and control, and at 30-36 months of age, children may not have sufficient cognitive and emotional resources to exert inhibitory control and self-regulate. Future research should examine developmental changes in the effects of acute sleep restriction on inhibitory control and self-regulation strategies as children progress through the early childhood years.

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