WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- A new study has found that children who get less than nine hours of sleep have significant differences in certain brain regions responsible for memory, intelligence and well-being .
Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) analyzed data that were collected from more than 8,300 children aged 9 to 10 years who were enrolled in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. They examined MRI images, medical records, and surveys completed by the participants and their parents at the time of enrollment and at a two-year follow-up visit at 11 to 12 years of age. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the ABCD study is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the U.S.
They found that children who had inadequate 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. The differences persisted after two years, a concerning finding that suggests long term harm for those who do not get enough sleep.
These findings are indictive of the potential long-term impact of lack of sleep on neurocognitive development in children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to promote good sleep habits in their children. Their tips include making sufficient sleep a family priority, sticking with a regular sleep routine, encouraging physical activity during the day, limiting screen time and eliminating screens completely an hour before bed.