Regular sleep patterns help children develop their cognitive functions and stay ahead in school, according to studies done with three-year-olds by University College London.
It didn’t seem to matter so much at what time the children went to bed. Whether they
went to bed early or late didn’t seem to make a difference; it was more of a regularity issue.
“The surprising thing was the later bedtimes weren’t significantly affecting children’s test scores once we took other factors into account,” Amanda Sacker, director of the
International Center for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at University College
London and a co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal. “I think the message for parents is … maybe a regular bedtime even slightly later is advisable.”
Problems arose because irregular bedtimes messed up the children’s circadian rhythms
and also led to sleep deprivation. As the researchers noted in the study, sleep deprivation affects what’s called brain plasticity — changes in the synapses and neural pathways.
How do children’s sleep issues relate to us adults?
In a bunch of ways, actually.
One is that we tend to try to cheat our sleep so we can “burn our candles at both ends,” for one thing. But this just leads to the same cognitive, or what we adults might call “focus,” problems that the children being studied experienced.
Another way is that, as we age and gain weight, the chances of our experiencing sleep
deprivation and other sleep-related issues increase as our snoring increases because of
physical issues. Worse-case scenarios arise when our snoring problems stem from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which involves interrupted breathing — periods of utter cessation — throughout our sleep period.
In other articles, we’ve detailed how both weight gain and aging can result in sagging,
flabby or otherwise obstructive physical characteristics in our airway, involving blocking
problems with our soft palate, tongue and uvula.
If we are experiencing sleep problems, we need, first, to adhere to proper sleep hygiene,
which includes going to bed at a regular time and getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night.
Second, if we suspect snoring and breathing problems to be at the root of our daytime fatigue and lack of focus, we need to see a sleep professional immediately for a diagnosis. Often, simple in-office procedures can lead to years of restful — and awake — results.