This systematic review examined the associations between sleep and brain functions and structures in children and adolescents aged 1-17 ys. Included studies (n = 24) were peer-reviewed and met the a priori determined population (apparently healthy children and adolescents aged 1 y to 17 ys), intervention/exposure/comparator (various sleep characteristics including duration, architecture, quality, timing), and outcome criteria (brain functions and/or brain structures, excluding cognitive function outcomes). Collectively, the reviewed studies report some relationships between inadequate sleep and resultant differences in brain functions or structures. Although the research presented supports and offers more insight into the importance of sleep for the developing brain of children and adolescents, no firm conclusions that apply broadly may be drawn from these results, particularly because of the diversity of the sleep variables and outcomes. However, it is clear that sleeping habits in the pediatric population should be prioritized. Health care providers should continue to recommend healthy sleep practices and adequate time for sleep, as they are essential for overall health, including brain health.
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute