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Less sleep may weaken your memory

According to a research irregular sleep patterns among infants affect their intelligence, reports Sumitra Deb Roy.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2007 23:08 IST

Do not blame the education system every time your child does badly in the exams. The reason may lie a few years ago in his cradle.

A research conducted by the University of Chile on 1,600 infants has found that irregular sleep patterns among infants affect their intelligence and significantly reduce their potential to learn and perform.

Dr Patricio Peirano, international sleep expert and Head of Sleep and Functional Neurobiology at the University of Chile who headed the research, was recently in the city to talk about his findings. "The potential to learn and repeat, capacity to integrate and competence of a child gets severely affected because of disrupted sleep patterns," said Dr Peirano. His team has been monitoring 1,600 infants from various parts of the world right from their birth till they are 15 years of age. The research will conclude this year.

Pediatricians believe that babies between six months to two years must have 11-13 hours of sleep. Statistics provided by Dr Peirano also said globally 92 per cent babies got less than 12 hours of sleep, while 50 per cent of them wake up at least once a night.

According to Dr Peirano, the sleep-wake pattern in babies disrupts some of the cerebral functions and hampers the development of sensory nerves and secretion of hormones. "Several functions that occur during sleep cannot be completed if the child frequently wakes up and that hampers the development of the child to her full potential," he added. He said that uninterrupted sleep also helped in de-stressing, building immunity and recovering energy.

Pediatrician and sleep expert from Hinduja Hospital Dr Indu Khosla said inadequate sleep delayed the motor skill development and spurred neuro-cognitive problems like trouble with memory, unclear thinking and poor concentration in a child.

The study showed that infants who had a history of irregular sleep patterns were more vulnerable to high blood pressure, obesity and other cerebral problems. India has 45 million babies, the highest in the world followed by China with 27 million. Still, there is hardly any research on the sleep patterns of infants in India.

Apart from hunger and wetness, external factors such as sleep posture, uncomfortable clothing, temperature extremes and thirst have been identified as reasons for frequent sleep interruptions. Dr Khosla said that opposed to the Indian culture of forcing the baby to sleep, babies should be encouraged to put themselves to sleep, "so that even if they wake up at midnight, they know how to go back to sleep."

Email Sumitra Deb Roy: sumitra.roy@hindustantimes.com