“Sleep is important for a lot of reasons, and can
influence health and well-being and cognitive functioning,” said
lead author Christopher A. Magee. “The typical sleep pattern
appeared to have the best outcomes as measured in this paper,” he
told Reuters Health in an email.
But since this is a relatively new area of research, the researchers
can’t say for sure that this pattern of sleep causes better health
and wellbeing, said Magee, of the University of Wollongong in
Genetics do influence the regulation of sleep, but the results
suggest that environmental and social factors, like household
financial hardship, may play a role as well, he said.
The researchers used Medicare Australia data from a group of almost
3,000 children to track the kids’ health and quality of life at four
points between birth and seven years of age.
Parents completed sleep journals and answered interview questions
about their children’s sleep patterns, and included how often their
children had experienced problems like difficulty waking, feeling
sad, problems socializing or missing school due to illness, which
were meant to rate the child’s overall quality of life.
Researchers divided the kids into four groups based on their sleep
patterns: “typical sleepers” slept the most as infants, about 14
hours, and gradually decreased their sleep duration until age seven,
when they got an average of almost 11 hours per night.
“Persistent short sleepers” showed a similar decline in sleep hours
over time, but they always got about an hour less sleep than the
typical sleepers. Only 11 percent of kids fell into this group.
“Initially short sleepers” started out like the short sleepers, but
by age five or six were getting as much sleep as typical sleepers.
This group included 45 percent of the kids, followed by typical
sleepers, who made up 40 percent.
Less than three percent of kids had the most unusual sleep pattern,
which started short, with sleeps of less than 10 hours in infancy,
gradually increasing with time. Researchers called this group the
Poor and initially short sleepers tended to have a lower physical
functioning score on the quality of life scale than typical
sleepers. Persistent short sleepers also had the physical
disadvantage, as well as lower emotional and social functioning
scores, according to the results published in Pediatrics.
Following one group of kids for seven years helps to focus on the
problem of too little sleep as a chronic issue, not just one bad
night, said Dr. Elsie M. Taveras, director of Pediatric Population
Health Management at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
[to top of second column]
Taveras worked on a similar study published in the
same issue of the journal, following 1,000 kids from age six months
to seven years, and found that kids who chronically slept too little
tended to have more body fat at age seven than longer sleepers.
Kids who had shortened sleep most often were more than twice as
likely to be obese than kids who rarely or never had short sleep
duration. That’s a significant increase in risk, she said.
“Two times the odds of obesity for any risk factor for obesity is
very rare,” she said.
In Taveras’ study, short sleepers not only had more fat, but more
abdominal fat than longer sleepers.
“Abdominal fat is
particularly hazardous for later cardiometabolic diseases,” like
diabetes and heart disease, she told Reuters Health by phone.
Taking the results of her study with the results of the Australian
quality of life study, the amount of sleep kids get seems to be
linked to a huge number of areas of health, she said.
According to recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation and
the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, toddlers need more
than 12 hours of sleep per day, children up to four years old need
between 10 and 11 hours and up to age seven kids should get at least
10 hours, Taveras said.
“For many children, good sleep could be promoted by having regular
bedtimes, limiting household noise, and limiting TV viewing and
electronic media near bedtime,” Magee said, but some sleep problems
like sleep apnea or primary insomnia may need specialized treatment.
“If a child has persistent problems sleeping and this is impacting
on their normal daily activities, then it may be a good idea to seek
some advice,” he said. “A general practitioner could be a good
and http://bit.ly/1vsqt9h Pediatrics, May 19, 2014.
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