Meditation can give kids more than an HOUR of extra sleep per night, study finds

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Learning to meditate and other mindfulness techniques can help children sleep more than an hour longer each night, according to a new study.

The techniques, learned as part of the elementary school curriculum, helped children become more emotionally stable, as well as getting an hour and a quarter more sleep at night, the Stanford University research team said. School of Medicine.

According to the study, telling children to go to bed earlier doesn’t work, but teaching them to relax does, said Ruth O’Hara, lead author of the study.

Low-income families have been recruited to test how lessons on how to relax and deal with stress can be used as a sleep aid in children who have trouble falling asleep.

Children from Hispanic families living in high crime areas in San Francisco were not taught how to sleep more, but instead were educated in mindfulness techniques in school, and then their brain activity was examined.

Children who participated in mindfulness classes, taught by classroom teachers twice a week, gained 74 minutes of sleep and 24 minutes of REM sleep.

Learning to meditate and other mindfulness techniques can help children sleep more than an hour longer each night, according to a new study. Image bank

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION?

Meditation dates back to 5000 BC.

It is associated with certain philosophies and religions but is increasingly practiced as a secular and anti-stress activity.

A recent study found that meditation can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering the risk factors that can lead to the disease.

Specifically, he found that the practices can lower blood pressure and levels of anxiety and depression.

It can also help people quit smoking, which can lead to a fatal heart attack.

Experts warn that healthy lifestyle changes, such as being more physically active, are still the safest way to ward off illness, but add that meditation can decrease the chances as well.

The researchers used polysomnography, which measures brain activity, to assess how school-based mindfulness training affects children’s sleep.

Yoga instructors and children’s class teachers taught the program twice a week, for two years, to all schools in the community that benefited from the intervention.

The curriculum consisted of training to focus on the present; slow, deep breathing exercises; and yoga-based movement.

The instructors also taught the children about stress and encouraged them to use the techniques to help them rest and relax, but they did not give any instruction on sleep enhancement techniques such as maintaining consistent bedtime.

Over the two-year study period, among children in the control group, total sleep decreased by 63 minutes per night while REM sleep minutes remained stable, in line with sleep reductions typically seen at the end of the day. childhood and early adolescence.

It increased more in children receiving mindfulness classes than it decreased in the control group – up to 74 minutes of total extra sleep per night.

Of more than 1,000 third and fifth graders participating in the study, researchers recruited 58 children who completed the program and 57 children from the control group for three home sleep assessments, conducted before the program started, after a year. and after two years.

These assessments measured brain activity during sleep, via an electrode cap placed on the child’s head, as well as respiratory and heart rates and oxygen levels in the blood.

Lead author Dr Christina Chick, postdoctoral researcher in psychiatry, said children in the control group were expected to decrease their sleep over time.

“Older kids may be staying awake doing homework or talking or texting with friends.

The techniques, learned as part of the elementary school curriculum, helped children become more emotionally stable, as well as getting an hour and a quarter more sleep at night, the Stanford University research team said. School of Medicine.  Image bank

The techniques, learned as part of the elementary school curriculum, helped children become more emotionally stable, as well as getting an hour and a quarter more sleep at night, the Stanford University research team said. School of Medicine. Image bank

What is mindfulness?

Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and the world around you – can improve mental well-being.

This activity is now called mindfulness.

Mindfulness can help people enjoy life more and understand themselves better.

You can take steps to develop it in your own life.

It was originally developed in East Asia and has become a fashionable tool in Western cultures in recent years.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Center, writes on the NHS website that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside of ourselves, every moment.

“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with how our body feels and end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts determine our emotions and behavior, ”he says. he.

“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our body and the sensations it feels.”

“I interpret our results to mean that the program was protective, in that it taught skills that helped protect against this sleep loss,” said Dr Chick.

“Hormonal changes and brain development also contribute to sleep changes at this age.”

Since REM sleep (REM), which includes dreams and helps consolidate memories, also lengthens in children who have learned the techniques, it is suggested that these children may do better in education as well.

Dr O’Hara said: “Children who completed the program slept, on average, 74 minutes more per night than before the procedure.

“It’s a huge change,” adding “they’ve gained almost half an hour of REM sleep.”

“It’s really quite striking,” she said. “There is theoretical, animal and human evidence to suggest that this is a very important phase of sleep for neural development and for the development of cognitive and emotional functions.”

Still, the average amount of sleep received by study participants in both groups was low, Chick said, noting that at least nine hours of sleep per night is recommended for healthy children.

The researchers plan to disseminate the results more widely, for example by helping teachers deliver a similar program.

They are also planning further studies to understand how various elements of the program, such as exercises that promote deep, slow breathing, can alter how the body works to allow better sleep.

“We believe that the work of breathing alters the physiological environment, possibly increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, and this actually results in improved sleep,” said Dr Chick.

The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

HOW TO DEAL WITH SLEEP PROBLEMS

Poor sleep can lead to worry and worry can lead to poor sleep, according to the mental health charity Mind.

Lack of eye closure is considered a problem when it impacts a person’s daily life.

As a result, they may feel anxious if they think that lack of sleep is preventing them from rationalizing their thoughts.

Insomnia is also associated with depression, psychosis, and PTSD.

Establishing a sleep routine where you go to bed and get up at the same time each day can help a person spend less time in bed and more time sleeping.

Soothing music, breathing exercises, viewing pleasant memories, and meditation also encourage closing your eyes.

Having time without technology about an hour before bed can also get you ready for sleep.

If you still have trouble falling asleep, keeping a sleep diary where you record the hours you sleep and the quality of your closed eye on a scale of one to five can be a good thing to show your doctor.

Also note how often you wake up in the night, if you need to take a nap, if you have nightmares, your diet, and your general mood.

Problems sleeping can be a sign of an underlying physical condition, such as pain.

Talk therapy can help you recognize unnecessary thought patterns that might be affecting sleep.

While medications, such as sleeping pills, can help break short periods of insomnia and help you get back to a better sleep pattern.


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