Children's sleep and cognitive performance: A cross-domain analysis of change over time

Kristen L. Bub, Joseph A. Buckhalt, Mona El-Sheikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Relations between changes in children's cognitive performance and changes in sleep problems were examined over a 3-year period, and family socioeconomic status, child race/ethnicity, and gender were assessed as moderators of these associations. Participants were 250 second- and third-grade (8-9 years old at Time 1) boys and girls. At each assessment, children's cognitive performance (Verbal Comprehension, Decision Speed) was measured using the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities, and sleep problems (Sleepiness, Sleep/Wake Problems) were collected via self-report. Individual growth models revealed that children who reported increases in Sleepiness exhibited little growth in Verbal Comprehension over time compared with their peers who reported decreases in Sleepiness, resulting in a nearly 11-point cognitive deficit by the end of the study. These associations were not found for Sleep/Wake Problems or Decision Speed. Child race/ethnicity and gender moderated these associations, with Sleepiness serving as a vulnerability factor for poor cognitive outcomes, especially among African American children and girls. Differences in cognitive performance for children with high and low Sleepiness trajectories ranged from 16 to 19 points for African American children and from 11 to 19 points for girls. Results build substantially on existing literature examining associations between sleep and cognitive functioning in children and are the first to demonstrate that children's sleep trajectories over 3 waves were associated with changes in their cognitive performance over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1504-1514
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive performance
  • Group differences
  • Individual growth modeling
  • Sleep problems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Demography


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