Naptime Helps Keep Kids' Cells Young
Any parent knows the value of a nap when it comes to preventing crankiness. But why do kids need so much sleep? And what happens to them physically if they don't get it? A new study shows that lack of sleep can be harmful to kids on a cellular level, but don't worry. We've also dug up some science-backed solutions for when your kids aren't sleeping enough.
Let Sleeping Cells Lie
A lot of kids can't wait to grow up, but without a regular sleep schedule, they might get hit with all of the drawbacks of aging without any of the benefits. That's because, according to a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics, a lack of sleep can cause cells to show some signs of early aging. Here's what happens:
Telomeres are little "tags" at the end of every chromosome, and they limit cellular division by shrinking every time a cell divides. Think of it like a fuse. When the fuse runs out, the cell dies. As the telomeres get too short, the cells can't divide anymore, and that cuts back on how well the body can repair and replenish itself. We call that process "aging."
But according to authors Sarah James and Daniel Notterham from Princeton University, a lack of sleep can cause telomeres to shrink as well. In a group of nearly 1,600 nine-year-old children, the researchers found that with every hour less of sleep, telomere length was on average 1.5 percent shorter. It's another way that early development health can have effects that last a lifetime.
Cellular damage isn't the only negative side effect of kids skipping sleepytime. Insomnia's impact on the brain is well documented in children and adults alike, and one study from 2016 suggested that children with sleep disorders are more likely to become adults with emotional disorders. So it's pretty important to let your kids get their recommended nightly shuteye—between 7 and 17 hours, depending on age.
Putting The Problem To Bed
It's one thing to know how important sleep is for growing kids, and something else entirely to actually convince a nine-year-old to go to bed. Fortunately, science has got your back on that front as well. In 2011, Jennifer Vriend and Penny Corkum from Dalhousie University released a study documenting exactly what works for what age group.
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