Insufficient sleep could have a lasting impact on neurocognitive development in tweens

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). These differences were correlated with greater mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and impulsive behaviors, in those who were sleep deprived. Insufficient sleep was also linked to cognitive difficulties with memory, problem solving and decision making. The results were published today in the journal Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children ages 6 to 12 get 9 to 12 hours of sleep on a regular basis to promote optimal health. So far, no study has looked at the long-term impact of a lack of sleep on the neurocognitive development of preteens.

To conduct the study, researchers looked at data collected from more than 8,300 children between the ages of 9 and 10 enrolled in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. They reviewed MRI images, medical records and surveys completed by participants and their parents at enrollment and at a two-year follow-up visit at age 11 to 12. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the ABCD study is the largest long-term study of children’s brain development and health in the United States.

We found that children who had insufficient sleep, less than nine hours a night, at the start of the study had less gray matter or smaller volume in certain areas of the brain responsible for attention, memory and control of inhibition compared to those who had healthy sleep habits. . These differences persisted after two years, a disturbing finding that suggests long-term harm for those who don’t get enough sleep.”


Ze Wang, PhD, study corresponding author, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at UMSOM

It is one of the first findings to demonstrate the potential long-term impact of sleep deprivation on neurocognitive development in children. It also provides substantial support for current sleep recommendations for children, according to Dr. Wang and colleagues.

In follow-up assessments, the research team found that participants in the adequate sleep group tended to get progressively less sleep over two years, which is normal as children move into adolescence, while Sleep patterns of participants in the insufficient sleep group did not change. a lot. Researchers controlled for socioeconomic status, gender, puberty status and other factors that could impact how long a child sleeps and affect brain and cognition.

“We tried to match the two groups as closely as possible to help us better understand the long-term impact of poor sleep on the preteen brain,” said Dr. Wang. “Further studies are needed to confirm our finding and to see if interventions can improve sleep patterns and reverse neurological deficits.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to promote good sleep habits in their children. Their tips include making getting enough sleep a family priority, sticking to a regular sleep routine, encouraging daytime physical activity, limiting screen time, and completely eliminating screens an hour before bedtime. to sleep.

The study was funded by the NIH. Fan Nils Yang, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Wang’s lab is co-author of the study. Weizhen Xie, PhD, a researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is also a co-author on the study. UMSOM faculty members Thomas Ernst, PhD, and Linda Chang, MD, MS, are co-principal investigators of the ABCD study at the Baltimore site, but were not involved in the analysis data from this new study.

“This is a pivotal study that underscores the importance of doing long-term studies of the developing child’s brain,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Sleep can often be overlooked during busy childhood days filled with homework and extracurricular activities. Now we see how detrimental it can be to a child’s development.”

About Hector Hedgepeth

Check Also

Collaborate with academia for drug discovery targeting immune-mediated diseases

By George Vratsanos, MD, and Luke Devey, MD, Ph.D., Janssen Immunology There are many critical …