Whoa: Lack of Sleep Affects Kids' Brains Differently Than Adults

Here's one more reason to make sure your kids are getting enough sleep.

Shutterstock
Do your kids get enough sleep? I know mine don't. Because even though my husband and I know establishing healthy bedtime routines is key, when you factor in after-school activities and sports and homework, there are probably five nights out of every seven each week when our kids go to bed after we do. And now there's a new study that says those late bedtimes could be even more damaging to our kids' brains then previously thought.

Uh oh!

Researchers at the University Hospital of Zurich studied the effects of 50 percent sleep deprivation in a group of 13 children between the ages of 5 and 12, and found that the kids with too little or disrupted sleep suffered damage to all parts of the brain—not just the front section responsible for memory.

Baby and Children Sleep Chart

In fact, after only getting half of a night's worth of sleep, the children showed significant damage to the back regions of the brain responsible for planned movements, spatial reasoning, and attention. And while both children and adults need a period of deep sleep to recover after staying up late, these new findings contrast with what we already know about the fallout of sleep deprivation on us—where the effect is typically concentrated in the frontal regions of the brain.

"The process of sleep may be involved in brain wiring in childhood and thus affect brain maturation," explained study author Salome Kurth. "This research shows an increase in sleep need in posterior brain regions in children."

Of course, this study is a pretty small one and further research is needed before drawing any conclusions regarding how a lack of Zzz's affects kids' brain development in the long term. But in the meantime, it's a good excuse to start putting the kids to bed a few hours early, dontcha think?

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at@holleewoodworld