If you think you have it rough, think about your kids. Intuitively, we think of ourselves as more stressed and busy than our younger counterparts, but the child’s body is fighting a battle that we long ago won. In other words, the developmental life of a child is basically a large “critical period” in which bodily harm can have long-lasting effects. It is therefore important to keep kids healthy whenever possible. This, of course, includes making sure they have an adequate amount of sleep every single night. What could the consequences be of inadequate sleep?
Recently, a group of researchers set out to see whether simply a shortened night of sleep could affect blood pressure in children, aged 10-18. This group was investigated through the use of a sleep diary, which listed in detail their sleep, wake, and nap times, and also an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This monitor is able to take a reading of blood pressure every 20 minutes or so – even throughout the night. Sleep length was then analyzed in relation to blood pressure before, during, and after sleep.
Results showed that sleep duration, reflecting the sleep pattern obtained from a week of the sleep diary, was inversely related to systolic blood pressure, meaning the shorter the sleep duration, the higher the blood pressure. Total sleep time showed the same relationship. These associations held true before, during, and after sleep. Additionally, sleep efficiency, which is the percentage of time spent in bed when you are actually sleeping, was also related to systolic blood pressure during sleep1.
In context, what does this mean? These children were not sleep apnea sufferers, yet they were still affected by short sleep duration. We know already that untreated sleep apnea also has a negative impact on blood pressure in both children and adults, and this study adds another layer to the (not-so-healthy) cake. Both sleep efficiency (quality) and sleep duration were shown to be imperative in this study, further reinforcing the importance of adequate sleep in sleep apneics and non-sleep apneics.