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Sleepless children affecting their own brain maturity

02-07-2013

There are a lot of things that you say to children as they are grown up which are not strictly true. Most of these white lies, such as eat your crusts or your hair will fall out, are just a convenient way of getting your kids to do what you want, but here is one that is not only scary but is also true: go to sleep or you won’t grow up to be as smart as you could be.

Yes, sleep and brain development are intimately linked during childhood. In particular, there is a four year period, between 12-16 where a child’s brain neuron density will decrease (we are born with too many neurons, which are largely unconnected). This period is critical to a human’s overall mental development and if a child is not getting enough sleep then this process will not be conducted to the highest standard.

During this period the neurons are sorted, any that are not performing are essentially abandoned. This period is one of streamlining, the neurons that are performing best are kept and the others wither away.

If you want to get your kids into bed all you need to say is ‘go to sleep or you won’t grow up to be as smart as you could be’.


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