If you have not already done so, please read Blog Posts 1 through 5 that describe how sleep is important and beneficial. I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length. This is a reference book. Read only the topic of interest to you.
A. Children’s studies
∙ At 9 months of age, skipping a morning nap “was associated with a significant decline in post-nap retention of items learned in the afternoon. We conclude that two naps per day (rather than one) aids memory. We were surprised to find that infants’ memory decline was only significant for their afternoon memory performance. These findings suggest that skipping a morning nap, while possibly being modestly detrimental to morning learning in infants, may disrupt the afternoon nap’s ability to protect and consolidate memories learned later in the day.” (Blog Post 118).
∙ Objective sleep measures at 12 months of age showed that children with lower quality of sleep predicted compromised regulation of attention and behavioral problems at 3-4 years of age (Blog Post 50).
∙ Children, 2-6 years of age, with less sleep are more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems over the next 15 months (Blog Post 75).
∙ Children with nonregular bedtimes at ages 3, 5, and 7 years had more behavioral difficulties at 7 years. The effect of nonregular bedtimes was cumulative-the more years of nonregular bedtimes, the worse the behavior. However, when children changed from nonregular to regular bedtimes, they showed improvements in their behavior. This study suggests that when parents help their child sleep better future potential behavioral difficulties can be prevented. (Blog Post 100).
∙ At age 9 years. Sleep-wake problems occurred in some children who answered affirmatively that they frequently “had an extremely hard time falling asleep”, “fallen asleep in a morning class”, “slept in past noon”, and/or ‘stayed up all night”. These children were more likely to have high levels of externalizing behavior problems (rule-breaking and aggressive behaviors), depressive symptoms, and anxiety at age 18 years. (Blog Post 76)
∙ Among 9-11-year-old children, short sleep duration is associated with more psychopathology and specific regional decreases of brain volume. (Blog Post 136)
∙ In a group of children between 10 and 14 years old, a study examined the effects of a single night of experimental sleep restriction (5 hours of sleep allowed) or 3 nights of sleep restriction (7 hours of sleep allowed). The researchers noted that there were impairments in verbal creativity, abstract thinking and concept formation, and complex problem solving. These higher cognitive abilities appear to be essential for academic performance and success. In contrast, there were no deficits in rote performance or less complex memory and learning tasks. (Blog Post 73).
∙ “A recent systematic review suggested that inadequate sleep may be associated with differences in brain function and structures; for example, short sleep duration and smaller hippocampal grey matter occur in the brain of healthy 11-year-old children. Our research group previously showed that children with more sleep disturbances from age 2 years onwards had smaller gray matter volumes and thinner prefrontal cortex at 7 years. These imaging studies of sleep have primarily focused on the macrostructural properties of the brain (e.g., brain volume). This study explored the association between sleep problems during childhood and the brain’s white matter microstructure in preadolescence. Childhood sleep problems at 1.5, 2, and 5 years of age were associated with less white matter microstructure integrity at age 10 years. Our results imply that childhood sleep disturbances have long-term associations with white matter development. The rate of myelination of white matter is particularly high in the first postnatal years. Our results show that early neurodevelopment may be a period of particular vulnerability to sleep problems. Impaired sleep should be early recognized and warrants early sleep intervention programs. Next to improving sleep, these interventions might lead to better neurodevelopmental outcomes.” (Blog Post 52).
B. Animal experiments
∙ “Sleep loss adversely effects pineal melatonin production which causes disturbance of circadian physiology of cells, organs, neurochemicals, neuroprotective and other metabolic functions. The most convincing evidence for permanent damage resulting from sleep loss comes from cellular studies in which animal experiments are indispensable. There is increasing evidence that even brief periods of total sleep loss may permanently imprint on neuronal plasticity. For example, during critical developmental periods the adverse effects of sleep loss on the visual system have been clearly shown. Sleep deprivation, depending on the severity, leads to genetic, cellular, metabolic, electrical, neurotransmitter, and other changes. Prolonged sleep loss causes cellular stress and when the defense mechanisms are no longer able to cope, permanent neuronal damage may occur. The effects of cellular stress may be cumulative throughout life. Melatonin, which has powerful neuroprotective properties, has a central role in sleep deprivation since during sleep disturbances melatonin production is often reduced and/or disturbed” (Blog Post 52).
∙ “Studies in animal models of chronic sleep disruption demonstrate protracted and even incomplete recovery, including neuron (nerve cell) loss in brain areas critical for vigilance and memory.” (‘Neural consequences of chronic sleep disruption’ Blog Post 148)
A healthy child needs a healthy brain.
A healthy brain needs healthy sleep.
(To be continued)