NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 1, 2014

Body clock may be at fault when tots fight sleep

“Just one more story, please?” ‘‘I need a glass of water.” ‘‘Mom, I can’t sleep!”

When youngsters continually struggle to fall asleep at night, new research suggests that maybe their body clock doesn’t match their bedtime.

That doesn’t mean tots should be up at all hours.

“Just like nutrition and exercise, sleep is critical for good health,” said sleep scientist Monique LeBourgeois of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who is leading the research.

The ultimate goal is to help reset a delayed sleep clock so that young children can settle down more easily, she said. Hint: It seems to have a lot to do with light.

We all have what’s called a circadian rhythm, a master biological clock, that regulates when we become sleepy and when we’re more alert. Those patterns vary with age: It’s the reason teenagers are notorious for late nights and difficult-to-wake mornings.

But how does that clock work in preschoolers, who need more sleep than older kids or adults? A first-of-its-kind study tracked 14 healthy youngsters for six days to begin finding out.

The children, ages 21/2 to 3, wore activity monitors on their wrists to detect when they slept. Parents kept diaries about bedtime routines.

Then on the last afternoon, researchers visited each home, dimming lights and covering windows. Then every 30 minutes for six hours leading up to the child’s appointed bedtime, they also coaxed each tot to chew on some dental cotton to provide a sample of saliva.

The reason: to test for levels of a hormone named melatonin that is key to the sleep cycle and also sensitive to light. At some point every evening, people’s melatonin levels surge, and a while later, they begin to feel sleepy. Among adults who sleep well, that melatonin rise tends to happen about two hours before whatever is their chosen bedtime.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Special Features
AP Video
US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes Lunch Bus Delivers Meals to Kids Out of School Water Bottles Recalled for Safety Researcher Testing On-Field Concussion Scanners Rockets Fired From Gaza, in Breach of Ceasefire Raw: Japanese Military Live Fire Exercise Police, Protesters Clash in Ferguson Independent Autopsy Reveals Michael Brown Wounds Nashville Embraces Motley Crue Obama: 'Time to Listen, Not Just Shout' Lawyer: Gov. Perry Indictment a 'Nasty Attack' Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Crosses Into Ukraine Iowa Man Builds Statue of a Golfer Out of Balls Assange Gets Cryptic About Leaving Embassy in UK Raw: Building Collapse in South Africa, 9 Dead Raw: Pope Francis Meets 'Comfort Women'
Special Features