How much sleep do you get? You could be inhibiting brain development warns new study

Sleep posture expert on the benefits of 'proning' on Covid patients

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Conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the study found children who slept less than nine hours a night were more likely to develop cognitive difficulties.

Furthermore, the researchers said these children were more likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety as well as impulsive behaviours.

Findings from the study were published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

How was the study conducted?

Data was collected from more than 8,300 children between the ages of nine and 10.

These children had been enrolled in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study.

Conclusions were reached after analysis of medical records, MRI scans, and surveys until the children reached the ages of 11 and 12.

Professor Ze Wang said of the research: “We found that children who had insufficient sleep, less than nine hours per night, at the beginning of the study had less grey matter or smaller volume in certain areas of the brain responsible for attention, memory, and inhibition control compared to those with healthy sleep habits.”

Professor Wang added there were concerns for “long term harm” as a result of not getting enough sleep.

The study is considered of note because it is one of the first to demonstrate one set of possible long-term impacts of lack of sleep on neurological development.

While important work, Professor Wang caveated: “Additional studies are needed to confirm our finding and to see whether any interventions can improve sleep habits and reverse the neurological deficits.”

Alongside Professor Wang, Professor Bowers of the University of Maryland added: “This is a crucial study finding that points to the importance of doing long-term studies on the developing child’s brain. Sleep can often be overlooked during busy childhood days filled with homework and extracurricular activities.”

Meanwhile, another study has also investigated another area of children’s health – autism.

A team of researchers from the Texas University College of Medicine has investigated how the brain develops.

Their research is considered to form a key window of insight into how autism is caused.

In a statement Professor Vytas Bankaitas said: “There are many, what we’ll call, individual processing units that are horizontally arranged in the neocortex. The more surface area you have, the more of these processing units you can accommodate.”

Assistant Professor Zhigang Xie explained further: “One of the most studied genetic causes of intellectual disability is a mutation in a gene that was originally called LIS1.

“This genetic mutation will cause a smooth brain, which is associated with intellectual disability. And one typical observation is that the neocortex of the patient is thicker than normal.

“There are also very recent studies that identify common differences in the brain of autism that include abnormally thickened regions of the neocortex in those individuals.”

The professors explained the key was in the closeness of cells when a baby is at the embryonic stage of its development.

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