This study monitored 115 children ages 8-11 over two years. Twice per week, half of them went through a mindfulness curriculum of breathing exercises and yoga-based movement skills. The other half attended a more typical physical education class instead. All of the students—a mix of boys and girls—lived in communities of low socioeconomic status (SES).

Christina F. Chick, PhD, a lead researcher on the study from Stanford University, tells mindbodygreen that the team chose to focus on kids living in low SES environments because they are, unfortunately, more likely to experience short sleep duration and poor sleep quality.

The reasons for this are manifold: “They are likely to live in neighborhoods with a higher density of residents, which might mean more noise or light during the sleep period,” explains Chick. “Another reason is logistical: Families with fewer financial resources are more likely to have multiple people sleeping in the same room. If a child shares a bedroom with an older kid who goes to bed later, or with a parent who wakes up earlier to go to work, then the lights go off later and turn on earlier, making it more difficult to get consolidated sleep.”

Finally, she says, when parents are carrying excess stress, it can trickle down to kids, too: “Children may not know the details of the situation—for example, which bills are due, or what’s going on at the parent’s job—but they certainly understand when parents are stressed, and they sometimes take that on as their own.”

Over the course of this study, the children’s sleep quality and perceived social stress were measured three times: Once prior to their mindfulness or P.E. class, and twice at yearly follow-ups.

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