Research shows that North Americans are sleeping less today than they were in decades previous. When living our media-dependent, activity-filled lives, sleep can sometimes end up an afterthought.
“We need to think of sleep as part of a triangle of health, equal in importance to healthy eating and an active lifestyle,” explains Penny Corkum, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Dr. Corkum, cross-appointed in Psychiatry and Pediatrics and also scientific staff with the IWK Health Centre, is an expert in pediatric sleep. She’s the leader of a CIHR national team grant, bringing together researchers from across Canada to develop web-based interventions for children struggling with behavioural sleep problems – tools that will help parents and their children have better nights and, in turn, better days.
With World Sleep Day coming up — Friday, March 16 — it’s worth asking questions about what happens when we don’t get the sleep our bodies need.
One study that Dr. Corkum and her students have undertaken involved restricting or extending the sleep of typically-developing children by an hour each night to assess how it might limit their daytime function. The result was that even after three nights, the team could find evidence for impairment: changes in attention, emotional regulation, more behavioural challenges. Those results are similar to studies for adults.
“A lot of people think of sleep as a time when nothing happens, because we’re ‘offline,’” says Dr. Corkum. “But lots of things are happening: memories are being consolidated, learning happens, hormones are being released. It’s not active from a conscious perspective, but it’s like the processing that happens offline in a computer – it’s needed to run the machine efficiently.”
It also can have an impact on children’s ability to manage pain. Dr. Christine Chambers, a pediatric psychologist with both Dalhousie and the IWK Health Centre, has done “cold presser” tests, where participants place their hand in cold water to assess their reaction, comparing teenagers given an optimized night’s sleep with those whose sleep was randomized.
“The teens who had restricted sleep took their hand out of the water sooner and showed more pain, and that’s consistent with a growing body of evidence that sleep can affect pain,” says Dr. Chambers, whose findings are particularly relevant to children dealing with chronic pain. “Sometimes, just by improving sleep, children can improve their pain management.”
Dr. Chambers explains that while working at a sleep clinic for children, she noticed “just how pervasive sleep problems are in children. But there really are simple and effective strategies [to address these] that can have a dramatic effect.”
Some of those strategies are things that may seem self-evident: having a consistent bedtime; making sure that children have a dark room; that they avoid television, computers or mobile devices just before bed; and that they be given an opportunity to fall asleep on their own.
Sometimes, these are easier said than done, though.
“Parents tend to do things that work and make sense to them in the short term – things like getting into bed with your child to help them get to sleep,” explains Dr. Aimee Coulombe, a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Corkum. “In the short term, everyone gets to sleep quicker, but these can lead to problems with the child being able to fall asleep on their own in the long term.”
For children who are having trouble sleeping, the best thing parents can do is to adopt strategies that ease children away from dependencies like parental accompaniment, media devices, etc. and towards self-reliance when falling asleep.
It also comes back to prioritizing sleep as part of the daily routine – a message of particular importance to university students, because of the relationship between sleep and learning.
“You see university students trying to pull all-nighters, sacrificing sleep in an attempt to study, but it’s sleep that’s going to consolidate that information for them, and will help them retain it,” she says. “You can’t study effectively without a good night’s sleep.”
Charles Crosby | Newswise Science News
Why might reading make myopic?
18.07.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Tübingen
Unique brain 'fingerprint' can predict drug effectiveness
11.07.2018 | McGill University
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine