Archive | October 4, 2010

Your Children and Sleep Deprivation

Your Children and Sleep Deprivation

By Hwaa Irfan

As a parent, you might feel the pressure is on for your child to do well at school. With the unending dilemmas presented by the global economic crisis, you might have forgotten that your child is a child with certain developmental needs, and might be caught up with thinking about your child’s future. Cut backs are taking place within the education system, and you might see their performance at school as the only way forward.  Do you remember what it was like when you were at school? Did your parents have certain expectations of you as a child, which you would rather not relive? Think back!

We want our children to do well, even to the extent that we might compel them to stay up late, and to do nothing else but study. When exams approach the pressure that they are under is worse. If we are working, we are not on top of the situation as much as we would like to be, or as much as we think we are, because we become dependent on the obvious cues that our children convey to us, and miss out on the more subtle cues that we are too tired, or too busy to notice. We might not be aware as  much as we think we are when it comes to their eating habits, and therefore whether they are getting enough nutrition. The one thing we have become far too accustomed to is doing without sleep. We consider it to be no big deal, so therefore it is normal for our children to spend long hours into the night studying.

Modern living demands doing much more in less time, however Allah (SWT) did not design our bodies to behave like automatons. Everything has limit, and in excess lurks dangers for He:

{ … made for you the night that you may rest therein and the day to see; most surely Allah is Gracious to mankind, but most do not give thanks…} (Al Mo’min 40: 61)

Going without sleep or less sleep than ones needs over a period of time does have a physiological and psychological impact and in some cases the affect can be long lasting.

A study early in 2010 by researchers at the USCD School of Medicine, and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in the U.S. through magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, and a series of cognitive tasks found that the part of the brain involved in the processing of language, the temporal lobe, was more active in the subjects who were deprived of sleep. The part of the brain involved with the learning process, the parietal lobe was less efficient in subjects in need of sleep. A 1999 study by Gillin and team, found that the brain is forced to exert greater effort when it is deprived of sleep. Whilst carrying out an arithmetic  test, parts of the brain active when in a rested state were found to be inactive in candidates deprived of sleep who also had fewer correct answers, and left out more replies. 

“It is possible that when the prefrontal and temporal regions were affected by sleepiness, the brain shifted the verbal processing to another system in the parietal lobes that could compensate for the loss of function. This suggests that parietal lobes might play a special role in the brain’s compensation for sleepiness,”

“However, the parietal lobes are the system primarily associated with arithmetic performance when subjects are well rested, so when it becomes less responsive with sleeplessness, there is not a brain system available to come online to compensate for the negative effects of sleep deprivation,” said Gregory Brown, associate professor of psychiatry at UCSD and a member of the team.

 “It is important to remember that sleep deprivation does have detrimental effects, which we sometimes forget as we push workers, students and others to perform even when they are functioning with a lack of sleep,” said Gillin.

The Consequences

As much as we want the best for our children, we must be careful of crossing the merging the point where the extreme of right and the extreme of wrong meets. It is generally understood that depression,  heart disease, hypertension, irritability, slower reaction times, slurred speech, and tremors are the basic effect of sleep deprivation. Research over the years has also proven the following:

The brain – one processes information more slowly and how one relates to others is impaired

  • Irritability
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory lapse/loss
  • Impaired moral judgment
  • Severe yawning
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperactivity

The heart

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Increased risk of heart disease

The Immune system

  • Compromised

The body  – reducing one’s sleep by one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by 32%, make one less interested in participating in social activities, and one is prone to having more accidents.

  • Delayed reaction in muscles
  • Impairment in physical coordination
  • Tremors
  • Aches
  • Growth rate impaired
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Decreased temperature

Seven – eight hours sleep per night is often recommended, but each person does not need the same amount of sleep, so it has to be observed how much sleep each person in the family, including the children needs. If they awake tired, they are not getting enough sleep. If they are hyperactive before going to sleep, time must be allowed to slow down and relax before the final act of the day – going to sleep. This practice improves the quality of sleep, and sleep after all improves the memory.


“Brain Activity is Visibly Altered Following Sleep Deprivation”

Breus, M. “Sleep Habits More Important Than You Think”

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