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Children Need Sleep to Grow and Mature: Puberty Regulated by Sleep Patterns

Update Date: Sep 12, 2012 10:36 AM EDT

One minute they are playing power rangers or narrating the lives of dolls and action figures and running almost everywhere; the next minute they're 2 feet taller, their voice is suspiciously lower, and their bedroom door is always closed.

To some parents, puberty seems to hit a child overnight and according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, It does.

Previous studies have shown that puberty begins in the brain, not the body and researchers now posit that the parts of the brain that control puberty are activated during slow-wave sleep, or 'deep' sleep

"If the parts of the brain that activate the reproductive system depend on deep sleep, then we need to be concerned that inadequate or disturbed sleep in children and young adolescents may interfere with normal pubertal maturation," warns Harvard researcher, Natalie Shaw, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital who led the study.

This is especially true, shaw continues, for children diagnosed with sleep disorders.

Recent studies suggest that children are getting less sleep than they require and previously recommended hours of sleep by physicians was found to be 37 minutes less than what they actually need.

In the study, researchers measured pulses of luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion in correlation with specific sleep stages in children ages 9 to 15. LH is directly responsible for regulating the reproductive cycles of mena dn women, triggering ovulation in girls and producing testosterone in boys.

Results showed that  the majority of LH pulses that occur after sleep are preceded by deep sleep suggesting that deep sleep is intimately involved in pubertal onset.

Researchers stress the importance of growing children to get adequate amounts of sleep at these stages in order for them to grow to their full potential. Lack of sleep can have implications for the timbre of a boys voice, his height and a females breast size.

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