A research abstract to be presented today at the annual meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) in Minneapolis may indicate that sleep loss in children affects their cognitive development and functioning.

The author of the abstract, University of Louisville’s Rachel Waford, suggests that loss of sleep can change children’s initial stages of speech perception. Her study involved 32 six to seven-year-old children who listened to and phonetically-coded computer-generated speech.

Waford says that even mild loss of sleep in children—one hour less per night for seven nights—can negatively impact the skills children need for reading and language development.

To avoid disruptions in normal cognitive and linguistic functioning, preschool children should sleep at least 11 hours a night and older children should sleep at least 10 hours a night.

Experts recommend that parents have their children follow a consistent bedtime routine and create a relaxing bedroom environment.