Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Children who go to bed at the same time every night–even if that time is a little later than parents think they need–may get a boost in school performance and brain development, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. More from CNN:
“If the child prefers to go to sleep a little bit later, but it’s done regularly, that’s still OK for them, according to the evidence,” said Amanda Sacker, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London.
Researchers looked at information about bedtimes and standardized test scores for more than 11,000 children who were part of the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative study of children in the United Kingdom.
The Millennium Cohort Study followed children when they were aged 3, 5 and 7, and included regular surveys and home visits. Researchers asked parents about family routines such as bedtimes.
Children also took standardized tests in math, reading and spatial abilities when they were 7 years old.
Researchers controlled for socioeconomic status in addition to other factors such as discipline strategies, reading to children and breakfast routines.
The study found that, in general, consistent bedtimes were linked to better performance across all subject areas. This was especially true for 7-year-old girls, regardless of socioeconomic background – they tended to do worse on all three intellect measurements if they had irregular bedtimes. Boys in this age group did not show the effect.
In both girls and boys, non-regular bedtimes at age 3 were linked with lower test scores, but not at age 5.
Bedtimes that had never been consistent for girls at ages 3, 5, and 7 were associated with lower scores than regular bedtimes. For any two of these ages, boys also tended to do worse on the tests if they didn’t go to sleep at a routine time.
These results “showed that it wasn’t going to bed late that was affecting child’s development, it was the irregular bedtimes that were linked to poorer developmental scores,” Sacker said.
Image: Boy at bedtime with clock, via Shutterstock
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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
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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
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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
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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
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