For 29 years, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies have been gathering annually at the SLEEP scientific conference to study, discuss and reveal all the latest research on sleep and sleep medicine. At this year's fascinating event this past June, one of the focuses was children's sleep and quite a bit of new research was presented.
Thanks to the physicians and researchers devoted to understanding sleep, here's some of the latest that we know:
The Brain Cleanses Itself During Sleep
We've known for many years that sleep is critical to recovery and the development of brain functions. Research has shown that during a night's rest, your brain is converting short-term memories into long-term ones. There is even evidence that we're learning while sleeping.
A more recent study has pointed to evidence that the brain is "flushing out its own waste" at night. This clean-up process allows fluid to wash the brain clean and clear away toxic proteins. The researchers have speculated that this process uses up a vast amount of energy, which is why it takes place during sleep.
Children's Growth Hormone Release During Sleep
Although this idea has been around for some time, new research has backed up the belief that uninterrupted sleep is imperative for children due to the release of a particular growth hormone. This hormone, hGH, is essential to tissue and muscle development, and it's critical that children are sleeping soundly without interruptions.
Lack of Sleep can Lead to ADHD-like Symptoms
We've discussed the issue of misdiagnosis of ADHD before, and it's a big problem in the United States. In fact, some estimates point to a misdiagnosis of over 1 million U.S. children. (In 2011, more than 6 million U.S. kids were diagnosed with ADHD.) But what if the major issue was not ADHD but a lack of sleep instead?
Comparing Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation and ADHD
Think about the symptoms of sleep deprivation in children: Moodiness, irritability, temper tantrums, "the tendency to emotionally 'explode' at the slightest provocation" and over-activity and hyperactive behavior. And the common symptoms for ADHD? Quick temper or "short fuse," difficulty playing quietly or relaxing, fidgets and squirms and impatient. These sets of symptoms are not far off from one another.
The director of the Pediatric Sleep Research Center in St. Louis, Dr. Shalini Paruthi, believes that many of these misdiagnoses can be attributed to lack of sleep. Another study presented at SLEEP 2015 found that children who are diagnosed with ADHD may see their symptoms worsen when sleep deprived.
Take Time to Get Quality Sleep
As research continually expands and grows, there's one thing we can certainly do: Devote ourselves to quality sleep! Learn more about how to help your kids sleep and if you're having a hard time catching some Zzz's, consider making an appointment with your local chiropractor to discuss how they can help.