Cairo: Dr. Hani Ramzi Awad
A recent study related to the relationship between sleep disturbances in the first years of a child’s life, an increase in the likelihood of many mental and mental illnesses, and the emergence of symptoms early in the adolescence period. The study indicated that these possibilities increase whenever the problems started at a young age, starting at the age of three, and perhaps long before it.
Sleep and mental health
These results came in a study by scientists from the University of “Birmingham” in the United Kingdom, published in mid-July of this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association for Mental Medicine (JAMA Psychiatry).
Scientists had examined data taken from the results of several questionnaires of 13,000 people who were all students in the early 1990s. Their data were part of English studies that were conducted on students to determine their physical and psychological health related to sleep. Their parents gave information about their sleep pattern 6 times in a row, starting at the age of 6 months, then 18 months, then 30 months, then 3 and a half years, then 4 years and eight months, and ending at 5 years and 8 months.
Among those included in the study, there were 7,000 people who suffered from mental illness in adolescence, and another 6,000 who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder.
The results showed a correlation between lack of sleep in children who used to wake up during the night, starting at the age of 6 months, then 18 months, and an increase in the likelihood of mental illness in adulthood, which confirms previous theories about the role of insomnia in increasing the incidence of mental illness. in general. Scientists also found that children who go to bed later at the age of three and a half were more likely to have BPD in adulthood. The scientists explained that waking up from sleep at this age stage is most likely due to nightmares, and despite the already existing link between nightmares and the increased likelihood of mental illness in the future, the matter is not limited to nightmares only, and it is related to the quality of sleep itself, its quantity, and whenever they are The hours are enough to sleep the better for mental health.
Factors of insomnia
Scientists have pointed out the possibility that hormones in adolescence and chemical connections in the brain play a role in developing mental illness. But also sleep remains a very important factor in maintaining the nerve and chemical connections in the brain without defects, and it helps children develop normally, and acquire various skills through the maturation of the cognitive centers in the brain.
This makes insomnia a risk factor for various mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, but extends to include behavioral diseases such as attention deficit and hyperactivity, especially if the problems in the sleep model occur before the first year of the child’s life.
The researchers explained that the matter needs more studies, especially since the current study did not monitor the genetic factor, and the likelihood that these children who suffered from insomnia in their early childhood and developed mental illnesses in their adolescence were a result of genetic factors for parents of psychiatric patients, and also suffered in their childhood from Insomnia itself, which was transmitted to children genetically. Scientists have taken into consideration many factors that may cause psychological problems in isolation from the quality of sleep, such as poor treatment of the child at home or school, or bullying, or environmental factors such as being in conflict or war zones. The researchers also explained that lack of sleep has a special importance in childhood than in other stages of life, as it is the period in which the completion of nerve development in the brain, and therefore the imbalance in sleep that occurs at this stage will be reflected in the future on the psychological state of the teenager, and in most cases, these Age pattern has its own sleep pattern.
The study warned that lack of sleep is increasing as a phenomenon in children for many reasons. The most important of these are the long and stressful school day, delayed bedtime, as well as the increase in time spent in front of screens, whether mobile phones or tablets, especially in late childhood and early adolescence.
Roughly speaking, 60 percent of American adolescents do not get enough sleep (8 hours), which can expose them later to stress and anxiety. And organic factors that can lead to sleep difficulties must be excluded, such as problems in the upper part of the respiratory system, which temporarily prevent breathing, what requires awakening from obstructive sleep apnea, as well as the presence of pain in a specific area and some types of drugs.
Parents must monitor the sleep pattern of their young children, and resort to medical centers specialized in sleep medicine if there is a real disorder, as most young children can suffer from some insomnia, and go to bed late naturally. As for the pathological form, it appears when it is repeated at least 3 times a week, and continues this way for up to 3 months until the diagnosis can be made. Parents must establish a specific sleep regime and go to bed at a specific time every day, while preventing viewing of screens well before bedtime in order to avoid their children’s psychological problems later.