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Insufficient Sleep and the Developing Brain

March 24, 2023

New research alert: Yang FN et al. 2022

Not getting enough sleep can have adverse effects on the developing brain. Over time, continual insufficient sleep may impair neurodevelopment in ways that can be measured on brain scans and tests. During sleep, the brain consolidates memories and learning and helps the brain repair and regenerate. Nine and ten-year-olds who do not get at least 9 hours of sleep most nights tend to have less gray matter and smaller areas of the brain responsible for attention, memory, and inhibition control.

Here are some specific ways that lack of sleep can affect the developing brain:

  • Impaired Cognitive Function: Lack of sleep can lead to difficulty with attention, concentration, and memory. This can make it harder for children to learn and perform well in school.

  • Emotional Complication: Sleep deprivation can also contribute to emotional issues, such as irritability, mood swings, and anxiety.

  • Physical Health Issues: Sleep is vital for physical health as well, and chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

  • Impaired Brain Development: Sleep is critical for brain development, and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to changes in brain structure and function. This can impact a child's ability to learn, process emotions, and regulate behavior.

Researchers found a relationship between insufficient sleep and disrupted connections between the brain's basal ganglia and cortical regions. This appears to be linked to depression, thought problems, and impairments in crystallized intelligence.

These overall patterns persisted two years later. Let's recognize and treat these problems early! Sleep is so essential for our kids to support their healthy development!

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