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Schoolchildren who lack sleep ‘may experience negative impact on their brains’

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Primary school children who get lower than nine hours of sleep an evening have significant differences in brain regions chargeable for memory, intelligence and well-being, a latest study suggests.

These differences might be related to greater mental health problems, like depression, anxiety and impulsive behaviours, in those that lacked sleep.

In accordance with researchers, the findings suggest long-term harm for individuals who don’t get enough sleep, compared with those that get the beneficial hours.

The study further found that getting inadequate sleep was linked to difficulties with memory, problem solving and decision making.

These differences continued after two years, a concerning finding that means long-term harm for individuals who don’t get enough sleep

Ze Wang, University of Maryland School of Medicine

The NHS and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend that children aged six to 12 sleep nine to 12 hours per night.

Ze Wang, professor of diagnostic radiology and Nuclear Medicine at University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), said: “We found that children who had insufficient sleep, lower than nine hours per night, in the beginning of the study had less grey matter or smaller volume in certain areas of the brain chargeable for attention, memory and inhibition control in comparison with those with healthy sleep habits.

“These differences continued after two years, a concerning finding that means long run harm for individuals who don’t get enough sleep.”

Researchers examined data collected from greater than 8,300 children aged nine to 10 years who were enrolled within the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study in America.

They are saying their study is one among the primary findings to reveal the potential long-term impact of lack of sleep on neurocognitive development in children.

It also provides substantial support for the present sleep recommendations in children, the researchers say.

The study also found that those within the sufficient sleep group tended to steadily sleep less over two years – normal as children move into their teenage years.

Nonetheless, the sleep patterns of kids within the insufficient sleep group didn’t change much.

Researchers say further research is required to substantiate their findings and to see whether any interventions can improve sleep habits and reverse the neurological deficits.

The findings are published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

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