The study, published in the Journal Sleep, suggests sleep problems as early as age 9, but particularly around age 13, show significant associations with later cognition functions.
Parents reported sleep problems -- in particular nightmares, sleep talking, sleepwalking, bedwetting, sleeping less/more day or night than other children, trouble sleeping or being overtired -- for 465 female and 451 male twins at ages 4, 5 and 7, and then each year from ages 9 through 16.
A subset of 568 of the children at age 17 completed laboratory assessments of three aspects key to cognitive activity known as executive control -- inhibiting a dominant response, updating working memory and rapidly shifting between two tasks.
"When we looked at each of the seven sleep problems separately, we found that changes in levels of 'sleeping more than other children' and 'being overtired' were the strongest predictors of later executive control and developmental trajectories of nightmares and 'trouble sleeping' were the weakest predictors," lead author Naomi Friedman of the University of Colorado at Boulder says in a statement.
The researchers said recognizing and addressing sleep problems early may reduce any negative impacts on executive control.