Sleep is nothing more than a four-letter word to students lavishing in the free lifestyle and other perks that are often associated with summer breaks. Without having to get up each weekday morning at the crack of dawn to get ready for school, many do their best to take full advantage of summertime, which often means staying up way past bedtime. But with many districts across the country gearing up to welcome children back, healthy sleep habits are important to instill leading up to the return. And now more than ever, the urgency to get children those needed z’s might be more fruitful, as a new study depicts just how harmful lack of sleep can be on the young, developing brain.
It’s no secret that there are boundless benefits that students thrive from when they get a healthy night of sleep before school. Additionally, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how a lack of sleep can bring down grades, and affect childrens’ moods. But did you know that kids that don’t get a good night’s sleep are harming parts of the brain that are responsible for developing memory, intelligence, and well-being?
This new finding comes from a study published on The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health website on July 29th. Professor Ze Wang, who co-authored the study, concluded that elementary students who don’t get at least nine hours of healthy sleep each night displayed significant differences in these brain regions than their peers. The professor, who works in diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine noted that children who received less sleep had less grey matter within the brain, which is imperative to memory and movement.
To prove the study’s extent and credibility, researchers studied brain scans, MRIs, medical records, and responses from students and their parents within surveys. More than 8,300 children aged 9 to 10 participated in the healthy sleep study. Officially called the ABCD Study, to date, it’s the largest child sleep study of its kind conducted within the United States.
The extensive study was laid out over years, studying the same group of students and their sleep habits. Furthering the notion that healthy sleep patterns are detrimental to brain health, the differences in grey matter developed over two years with those who did not get enough sleep were greatly different. What’s more, lack of sleep was associated with serious mental health struggles, depression, anxiety, and negative impulsive behaviors. Proving the hypothesis as well, inadequate sleep was connected to memory issues in the group of students.
While this new finding is concerning and alarming depicting just how detrimental lack of sleep can be on developing brains, it likely comes as no surprise to pediatricians and child health experts. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advocated for parents to instill healthy sleep patterns in children. In recent times, they have even upped suggestions for how much sleep each age group should get every night. Now that more harmful aspects of lack of sleep are known by scientists, asserting these best practices may be more important than ever.