Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Advising pregnant women in poor and developing countries to sleep on their sides might help lower the rate of stillborn children by at least 25 percent, according to a new study conducted in Ghana. More from The New York Times:
A graduate student’s summer project, the study is relatively small — it included only 220 women interviewed about their sleep habits just after giving birth in one hospital in Ghana.
But because Ghana has such a high rate of stillbirth, said Louise M. O’Brien, the professor at the University of Michigan’s Sleep Disorders Center who oversaw the project, by Jocelynn Owusu, the conclusion seemed clear: If pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs, 25 percent of all stillbirths in poor countries might be prevented.
The study, published online last month by The International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, also found that loud snoring — which is worsened by back (supine) sleeping — raised the likelihood that a pregnant woman would get high blood pressure, a condition that may lead to a complication known as pre-eclampsia, which can kill both mother and child if left untreated or not stopped by Caesarean section.
The Ghanaian study echoed one conclusion drawn from larger studies in the United States and New Zealand, Dr. O’Brien said: that apnea in pregnant women raises blood pressure and increases risk to the baby.
The leading theory, she said, is that when a heavily pregnant woman sleeps on her back, the uterus compresses the vena cava, the blood vessel going up the spine that returns blood to the heart. That starves the fetus, leading to smaller babies and more stillbirths. Supine sleeping also closes the airways, leading to oxygen deprivation, which raises blood pressure. Closed airways lead to snoring.
“In the delivery room, when an obstetrician sees a baby in distress, they often flip the woman on to her side,” Dr. O’Brien said. “But people haven’t thought through the connection to the months prior to delivery.”
In wealthy countries, blood pressure is lowered with drugs and apnea is prevented with breathing machines. But the drugs are little used in Africa and the machines are too costly.
Image: Pregnant woman sleeping on her side, via Shutterstock
Friday, March 29th, 2013
While babies’ and toddlers’ brains are developing and changing in sporadic and intense ways, teenagers may be consistently experiencing their brain development while they’re asleep, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California at Davis has found. More from The Washington Post:
While babies, toddlers and young children are taking in and making sense of the world, their brain cells are wiring themselves together willy-nilly, creating super-dense networks of interwoven neurons. But as we reach and progress through adolescence, neuroscientists have observed, a period of intensive “synaptic pruning” occurs in which those networks are thinned and the strongest and most evolutionarily useful remain.
In a study published last week, scientists from the University of California at Davis say they believe the slowed fluctuations observed during the delta phase of teens’ sleep may be evidence of that pruning process at work.
And since major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia appear to take root during adolescence, the authors of the study say the changing architecture of sleep may offer clues as to how and when mental illness sets in.
Image: Sleeping teenager, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Children who have televisions in their bedrooms have higher risks of developing health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found. More from NBC News:
“Specifically, youngsters ages 5 to 18 who had TVs in their rooms were up to 2.5 times more likely than others to have bigger waists and more fat mass. Those who watched TV more than five hours a day were at twice the risk for fat around their internal organs, a dangerous precursor for disease.
“It’s really troubling to see these kids with fat around their heart and liver,” said Amanda Staiano, a scientist with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
Staiano and her colleagues knew that previous studies had shown a link among bedroom TVs, longer TV viewing and being overweight or obese, which affects two-thirds of U.S. youth. But in a country where 70 percent of kids have TVs in their rooms, according to a 2010 study, Staiano said they wanted to understand exactly where the kids were adding fat, and whether they were at risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
“We wanted to see kind of a more precise relationship between TV and health,” said Stainao, who studied 369 children and teens in Louisiana. Her findings are reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
They took the kids’ height, weight and waist measurements, logged their blood pressure, analyzed their blood and examined the fat deposits in their bodies using special scanners, among other exams.
Nearly 66 percent of the young people in the study had TVs in their rooms and about a third watched at least five hours of TV a day. There wasn’t a distinction by age, so even the youngest kids — 5-year-olds — had their own TVs, Staiano said.
Those with bedroom TVs had the higher odds for being in the top tiers of kids with extra belly fat, bigger waists, greater risk of heart disease and diabetes and elevated triglycerides, or fat in their bloodstream.
While Stainano’s study couldn’t say whether bedroom TV and long hours in front of the screen actually causes the extra fat and disease risk, it renews the debate about whether TVs should be allowed in kids’ rooms at all.
The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns on the practice, saying children’s TV viewing should be limited to less than two hours a day, ideally in a central location with parents watching, too.”
Image: Kids watching TV in bed, via Shutterstock
Monday, October 8th, 2012
A new study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology has found that teenagers in Japan who use cell phones or other mobile devices after they go to bed face a higher risk of having sleep problems and related mental health problems including depression. From Boston.com:
In the study, researchers investigated nearly 18,000 children in junior high and high schools in Japan, with subjects answering questions about their mental health, in addition to sleep and mobile phone habits. The study follows prior research that finds poor sleep is associated with mental problems in teens. For example, a study published last year in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found teens who had difficulty sleeping were at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts.
Image: Cell phone, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Sleep-training techniques that fall into the controversial “cry-it-out” category are actually effective and do not cause psychological harm if conducted in a controlled, consistent way, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Time.com has more:
The study looked at two sleep-training methods known as controlled comforting and camping out, both of which let babies cry it out for short amounts of time. Controlled comforting requires the parent to respond to their child’s cries at increasingly longer intervals to try to encourage the baby to settle down on her own. In camping out, the parent sits in a chair next to the child as he learns to fall asleep; slowly, over time, parents move the chair farther and farther away, until they are out of the room and the infant falls asleep alone.
While neither strategy is as extreme as letting babies cry all night by themselves, they have been criticized over concerns that they may cause long-term emotional or psychological harm in babies, interfere with their ability to manage stress or cripple their relationship with their parents.
The new study by Australian researchers involved 326 children who had parent-reported sleep problems at 7 months. Half of the babies were put in the sleep-training group, in which parents learned helpful bedtime routines as well as the controlled-comforting or camping-out technique (parents could choose which strategy they wanted to use), and half were put in a control group that did not use sleep-training. The researchers followed up with the participants and their parents five years later. (By the study’s end, about 30% of families had dropped out.)
By age 6, the researchers found no significant differences between the kids in either group in terms of emotional health, behavior or sleep problems. In fact, slightly more children in the control group had emotional or behavioral problems than in the sleep-trained group.
Researchers also found no differences in mothers’ levels of depression or anxiety, or in the strength of parent-child bonds between families who had used sleep-training and those who hadn’t.
Image: Crying baby in crib, via Shutterstock