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Sleep Loss Affects Kids' Brains Differently Than Adults

Sleep Loss Affects Kids’ Brains Differently Than Adults

Most any parent can attest to the consequences of their child not getting enough sleep. Now, new research discovers sleep deprivation affects kids’ brains much differently than adults’.

“The process of sleep may be involved in brain “wiring” in childhood and thus affect brain maturation,” said Salome Kurth, Ph.D., first author of the study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Kurth is a researcher at the University Hospital of Zurich.

“This research shows an increase in sleep need in posterior brain regions in children.”

This contrasts with what researchers know about the effects of sleep deprivation in adults, where the effect is typically concentrated in the frontal regions of the brain.

After staying up too late, both children and adults need a period of deep sleep to recover.

This recovery phase is characterized by an increase in an electrical pattern called slow-wave activity, which can be measured with a non-invasive technique called an electroencephalogram. With a large number of electrode channels distributed across the scalp, this method also detects which brain regions show more slow-wave activity than others.

Supported by a large student team, Kurth and her colleagues, Drs. Monique LeBourgeois at the University of Colorado Boulder and Sean Deoni of Brown University, studied the effects of 50 percent sleep deprivation in a group of 13 children between the ages of five and 12 years.

The team first measured the children’s deep sleep patterns during a normal night’s sleep. They then re-measured on another night after the researchers had kept the children up well past their bedtimes by reading and playing games with them.

After only getting half of a night’s worth of sleep, the children showed more slow-wave activity towards the back regions of the brain — the parieto-occipital areas. This suggests that the brain circuitry in these regions may be particularly susceptible to a lack of sleep.

The team also measured how this deep sleep activity correlated with the myelin content of the brain — a cornerstone of brain development.

Myelin is a fatty microstructure of the brain’s white matter that allows electrical information between brain cells to travel faster. It can be measured with a specific magnetic resonance imaging technique.

“The results show that the sleep loss effect on the brain is specific to certain regions and that this correlates with the myelin content of the directly adjacent regions: The more myelin in a specific area, the more the effect appears similar to adults,” said Kurth.

“It is possible that this effect is temporary and only occurs during a ‘sensitive period’ when the brain undergoes developmental changes.”

Further exploration is needed before drawing any conclusions about how insufficient sleep affects early brain developmental processes in the longer term. But for now, these results suggest that going to bed too late hits kids differently.

Source: Frontiers

Sleep Loss Affects Kids’ Brains Differently Than Adults

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Sleep Loss Affects Kids’ Brains Differently Than Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/11/29/sleep-deprivation-affects-kid-brains-different-from-adults/113183.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Nov 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Nov 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.