Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

General Honors

First Advisor

Monique LeBourgeois, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Abby Hickcox, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Cathy Comstock, Ph.D.

Abstract

Sleep has been recognized as an important determinant for healthy development in children, with well documented effects on, not only physical health, but also emotional development. The mechanisms and extent of these relationships have yet to be fully elucidated. Considering that sleep is a modifiable health risk factor with myriad compounding impacts across the lifespan, this area of research is of distinct importance in the sphere of public health. This preliminary study is unique in that it uses a randomized, controlled experimental paradigm to assess the relationship between healthy sleep and emotion processing in children. 12 children with sleep problems, aged 4-to-6.9 years, were enrolled in the study. Roughly 2/3 of the enrolled subjects (n=8) were provided an in-home, 1 month sleep intervention administered by a behavioral interventionist while subjects in the control group were provided an intervention of similar structure and duration which did not pertain to sleep (e.g. health and safety). Parent-report of children’s behavior via the Emotion Regulation Checklist was collected pre- and post-intervention for both groups. On average, children who received the sleep intervention had a slightly greater increase in scores on the adaptive subscales and slightly greater decrease in scores on scales of negative emotional lability than did subjects in the control group. These differences were not statistically significant as measured by paired or unpaired t-tests, but show trends in the hypothesized direction. These findings help lay the groundwork for increased understanding of the role of sleep in emotional regulation (study data collection is ongoing). They additionally establish the feasibility of a sleep intervention as an effective treatment for children with comorbid sleep problems and emotional dysregulation, although larger-scale studies are needed.

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