A new research study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing shows that lead exposure in early childhood is associated with an increased risk for sleeping problems and excessive daytime sleepiness in later childhood. This is the first longitudinal, population-based study to investigate early lead exposure’s link to sleep problems. The findings will be published in the December issue of SLEEP magazine.
Researchers began working with more than 1,400 Chinese children in 2004, and looked at lead’s influence on their neurocognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes. Chinese children were selected for the study because lead pollution is pervasive throughout China and presents a significant public health risk.
Participants’ blood lead levels were measured when they were between three and five years old, and their sleep habits were assessed six years later, when the children were between nine and eleven years old. The sleep problems reported by study participants include excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, early morning awakening, trouble initiating and maintaining sleep, and having to use sleeping pills.
Sleep problems in children and adolescents are associated with many adverse health outcomes, including developmental disorders and intellectual and neurocognitive problems.