Scientists have identified miRNA molecules that correlate with sleep duration in children and adolescents. Possible blood tests for assessing sleep hygiene.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Since sleep is essential for the growth and development of children, a lot of people are worried that their young ones aren’t getting enough rest. Insufficient sleep can lead to many health problems, including diabetes, increased blood pressure, and chances of developing many conditions. And even though sleep observation can give as a good idea about their sleep quality, it is highly subjective, and not entirely reliable.

But now, it seems like scientists have found a way of assessing sleep hygiene in children with a simple blood test. 

A new study published in the journal of Experimental Psychology by the Physiological Society looked into certain markers in blood and how they correlated with sleep duration in children and adolescents. 

A team of Italian researchers investigated 111 normal-weight children based on their body mass index. All participants came from eight European countries, including Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Sweden, Estonia, and Hungary, and they were divided into two groups based on their self reported sleep habits.

The short sleeping group included children and adolescents who slept less than their minimal daily recommendation, which is 9 hours for children under 13 years and 8 for teenagers. The normal sleeping group consisted of children and adolescents who met their daily minimum sleep requirements.

Then scientists analyzed micro RNA (miRNA) blood levels. These molecules, among other functions, serve an essential purpose of carrying information about which genes to turn on and off. Since they regulate the activity of our genome, scientists wanted to see how they affected sleep during a young age.

They found the concentrations of two miRNA molecules to be different in normal and short sleepers. Even when they took into account participants’ age, sex, pubertal status, country of origin, screen time, and parents’ education levels, it didn’t change the outcome of the results. 

These results could help us create a blood test that would detect these molecules, and objectively asses sleep hygiene in children and adolescents. That could also be useful in preventing many health impairments due to lack of sleep. This objective measurement could prove to be a helpful tool, as relying on self-reporting questionnaires depend on our subjective view.

However, the authors reported a few limitations of their study, such as a weak correlation of sleep duration and miRNA blood levels in the normal sleeping group, and no significant association in short sleepers. Additionally, self-reported questionnaires could be inaccurate, although they are commonly used in sleep assessment studies. Researchers also didn’t include physical activity in the analysis, and this variable could be crucial. 

Generally, sleep duration and quality are affected by many different factors, such as genetics, environment, and others. These findings concerning miRNA concentrations and sleep duration during a young age, even though still weak, could prove to be vital for further research. Of course, more studies are needed to explore the function and importance of these miRNA molecules.


A new study suggest that weight lost leads to upper airway changes such as reduced tongue fat, which could improve obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep-related breathing disorder that affects more than 22 million Americans. Patients with this condition report multiple cessations of breathing during the night, which can severely impact sleep quality. The most common symptom is snoring, and people with sleep apnea also experience daytime fatigue frequently. The condition is not to go lightly about since it can lead to increased blood pressure, heart problems, and stroke.

It has been known that obesity is one of the main risk factors for developing sleep apnea, and when you consider that more than 70% of adults in the US are overweight, the situation is alarming. Standard treatment options for sleep apnea include continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) treatment and weight loss. However, CPAP is not always effective, and weight loss only seems to work in some instances.

That is why scientists from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine looked into the mechanisms in which weight loss improved sleep apnea symptoms.

Their 2019 study used magnetic resonance imaging of upper airways to measure the effects of weight loss on OSA symptoms. They found out that weight loss leads to reduced tongue fat, which was the strongest impact on decreasing the severity of OSA.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, and their results could have a significant impact on future treatment of sleep apnea. Since we now know what the primary reason for airway obstruction is, we can find ways to target it and lose tongue fat more efficiently.

One of the co-authors MD Richard Shwab led a previous study where he compared obese people with and without OSA. He already determined that patients who had OSA also had significantly larger tongues. The next logical step would be to assess how reducing tongue fat would affect OSA symptoms, which is precisely what this new study does.

The study included 67 obese participants with mild to severe sleep apnea. During a six month intervention, participants underwent diet adjustment or weight loss surgery which resulted in a 10% bodyweight reduction on average. Sleep study after the weight loss intervention showed that patients’ sleep apnea score improved by 31%.

And with MRI scans, researchers were able to locate the exact upper airway changes that led to this decrease of OSA symptoms. Tongue fat loss was the number one predictor of improvement, but also loss of soft tissue, reduced jaw muscles, as well as decreased muscle size on the sides of the airway all improved sleep apnea.

These findings could help us create an effective way of reducing tongue fat either through surgical procedures or possibly special diets that target fat loss in this area. These interventions are yet to be tested.

Shwab’s team is also interested in whether people who aren’t overweight but have fatty tongues could be predisposed to developing OSA. They think that because they have an average body mass index, they are less likely to get the right diagnosis, which poses a threat to their health. Their future research should shed some more light on this issue and help us get the most effective sleep apnea treatment.

A new study from the Uppsala University shows how a single night of sleep could increase blood levels of a recognised biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Experts all agree on one thing: lack of sleep is bad for your health. From short-term consequences like irritability, fatigue, and performance impairment, to serious health hazards if sleep deprivation becomes chronic.

However, a night or two of poor sleep shouldn’t have long term consequences. The following day may be harder to manage, but once the regular sleep schedule is back, everything turns normal. We’ve all been there, whether we had to pull an all-nighter, experienced jet lag, or were stressed or excited so much that we couldn’t sleep.

But, a new study from Uppsala University published in the medical journal Neurology hints that even a single night could have serious consequences, like an increase in a common biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease.

Participants were 15 healthy young male adults with an average age of 22 years and a healthy BMI index. They all stayed in a lab, had the same activity and meal patterns, and they also experienced two types of interventions at random. They either had a night of normal sleep, or they had to stay up and experience sleep deprivation. To stay awake, they were permitted to watch movies, play board games, and they were engaged in a conversation with experiment leaders to ensure wakefulness.

After each night, researchers took their blood samples and tasted it for several different markers of central nervous system health. Researchers looked at beta-amyloid, tau proteins, as well as levels of other factors that are commonly linked with neurological disorders.

This preliminary study found that acute sleep loss led to a 17.2% increase in tau protein blood levels. This molecule is located in the neurons of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and it can start to accumulate decades before the symptoms appear. That is why finding the cause behind this increase in tau protein levels could help manage Alzheimer’s.

There were no changes in other biomarkers of cognitive health.

And while researchers state that the increase of tau blood level is not a good thing, it doesn’t have to be necessarily bad. Higher activity of neurons during wakefulness could lead to a higher synthesis of this protein, and it’s higher blood levels could simply reflect the overall increase. More tau in blood could be a direct consequence of the brain trying to clear itself.

A few limitations, like small sample size, were reported. Also, the subjects were all young, healthy males, and the results could be different in other groups. It is particularly interesting to see how things would play out in older individuals since they have an increased risk of dementia and different lifestyle habits.

However, the study could provide a valuable inside into an early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It could help us understand how sleep impacts these conditions and possibly set new guidelines for lowering the risk of developing them.


A new study shows that odor cues such as rose scent during learning and sleep improve vocabulary learning and test performance in 6th-grade students.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Learning during sleep has been a dream of many people for a long time. And even though some tried to learn Spanish, Chinese, or some other language by listening to lessons during sleep, they quickly found out that this method was not really useful. Even though sleep is essential for learning, it can not replace the learning effort.

However, a new study from the University of Freiburg shows it could be possible to optimize sleep and achieve more efficient learning.

The team of researchers wanted to assess the importance of odor cues during learning, sleep, and testing, on memory formation in school children. Some previous studies performed in laboratory conditions showed that odors could be a potent stimulus for memory consolidation during sleep. However, this new study wanted to explore how this hypothesis would hold in everyday conditions.

The study was conducted in 6th-grade healthy German students in their home and school environment. To see how odor impacts learning English vocabulary, researchers used rose scent as an odor cue. They divided the students into four groups

  1. The control group didn’t receive any intervention.
  2. The second group had a rose scent present while they were studying and sleeping.
  3. The third group had a rose scent present while learning and taking a test.
  4. The final group had a rose scent present while learning, sleeping, and taking a test.

The results surprisingly showed that the students remembered vocabulary much better with a rose scent. In fact, the students who were exposed to rose scent during learning and sleep showed a 30% increase in learning success compared to the control group. There was no difference between the second group where the fragrance wasn’t present during testing and the last group where it was present during all three phases. The researchers published these findings in the Nature Group’s Open Access journal Scientific Reports.

These findings suggest that a simple fragrance stick could be used for improving learning efficiency. It highlights the importance of odor cues in memory acquisition and consolidation. And if something so simple could be this efficient, everybody could boost their learning ability with ease.

However, there are a few limitations to this study. The participating students went to two different schools, meaning different teachers, classes, and tests. That could very well be a reason for some of the result differences. Also, there was no control over other environmental factors. Students were responsible for studying, and the use of scented sticks and their reports may not reflect these parameters objectively. That is why scientists perform these experiments in a lab, where they can control all the factors, but this study provides valuable insights nevertheless.

This could be a significant step towards making learning more efficient and improving the effect of sleep on memory formation.


A new study looks into the relationship between sleep duration, mental health, cognitive performance, and brain structures in children.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Since childhood is the time when our central nervous systems develop, it is essential to make sure that children have everything they need during this time. That includes proper nutrition, physical and mental engagement, happiness, and, lastly, enough sleep.

Sleep is essential for proper cognitive functioning. It is well known that lower sleep duration is correlated with cognitive and mental health problems in adults. However, a large scale analysis of this correlation has lacked in children.

A new 2020 study wanted to analyze the impact of sleep duration on psychiatric and cognitive problems, and also see how it impacts different brain structures.

Researchers from the University of Warwick investigated over 11,000 children aged 9-11 from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) consortium. All the children came from the US with a wide range of geographic, ethnic, socioeconomic, and health backgrounds.

Behavioral measurements were used to obtain sleep duration, cognitive, and mental health assessments. Researchers also looked at structural MRIs to see if there were any changes in central nervous system composition in relation to sleep duration.

After statistical analyses, researchers found that the feelings of anxiety, depression, and impulsive behavior were negatively correlated with the sleep duration in participants. The same could be said with cognitive performance. Interestingly, the mental well being of parents was also negatively correlated with the amount of sleep their children were getting.

Looking at the neural imaging, researchers noticed a trend of lower brain volumes, especially in particular areas such as temporal, prefrontal, and orbitofrontal cortex, inferior and middle temporal gyrus, precuneus, and supramarginal gyrus.

Different brain areas affected by sleep. Source: University of Warwick.

After one year, a follow up with around half the initial participants showed depressive symptoms were correlated with shorter sleep duration even at that time. Since there is a complex link between sleep and mental health, we often see sleep disturbances in people with depression and anxiety. And it can be hard to break from that circle since mental health problems make it harder to maintain good sleep hygiene, and a lack of proper rest makes these conditions worse.

The biggest problem is that the majority of children don’t get enough sleep on school nights. Inappropriate screen time, the use of electronics before bedtime, inadequate school schedule, too much homework, and other activities can all impact your child’s rest. However, you should try your best to teach them the importance of sleep.

One of the coauthors, professor Edmund Rolls stated that children who slept for less than 7 hours on average expressed 53% more behavioral problems and had a 7.8% lower cognitive score than children who slept 9 to 11 hours. These numbers should highlight just how essential sleep is for both mental health and cognitive performance.

Although we need that sleep is vital, especially in the developing period, researchers admit that we need more studies to discover the underlying mechanisms for these links.

A newly developed deep learning model can accurately identify different sleep stages, making it a valuable sleep diagnostics tool.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Sleep diagnostics is essential for timely recognition of sleep disorders and addressing adequate treatment. When these conditions go untreated for a long time, they can severely impair overall health and the quality of life.

However, diagnosing sleep disorders is a fairly complex process. You need to go to a sleep clinic where sleep technicians perform polysomnography, and then the results are interpreted by sleep specialists. One of the most crucial steps in this process is the identification of sleep stages. And a new study from the University of Eastern Finland gives presents a strong case to how a deep learning algorithm can help with the identification of different sleep stages.

Traditionally, sleep is divided into rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM, with non-REM consisting of an additional three stages. Classification is performed manually during polysomnography and using several instruments such as electroencephalogram (EEG), electromyogram (EMG), and electrooculogram (EOG). This protocol is costly, time-consuming, and requires trained professionals.

That is why researchers from the University of Eastern Finland wanted to develop a deep learning model that can help with the identification of sleep stages and diagnosing sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA is one of the most common sleep disorders, and some estimates go as far as saying that over 30% of the world population suffers from it. And the number is only going higher with the increase in overweight and obese individuals, which is one of the most common risk factors for developing OSA. When untreated, this condition increases factors of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other serious health implications.

To improve sleep stage identifications, researchers used data from healthy as well as individuals with OSA to develop a deep learning model. They wanted to look at the overall classification accuracy and also the precision with the increase of OSA severity.

The results showed that the deep learning model had 83.7% accuracy classifying sleep stages using a single frontal EEG channel in healthy people. In individuals with suspected OSA, that number was 82.9%. After adding the EOG channel, it only slightly improved precision, and numbers rose to 83.9% in healthy individuals, and 83.8% in people with suspected OSA. According to these results, the model performed better than some previous ones, and its accuracy is equivalent to an experienced physician performing manual sleep stage identification.

The single-channel model had an 84.5% accuracy when predicting sleep stages in healthy adults, while the number went down to 76.5% in people with severe OSA symptoms. These results were expected, as even experienced physicians have problems identifying stages in patients with severe OSA, as their sleep architecture changes due to sleep fragmentation.

These findings are promising, and it could mean we are about to start using advanced deep learning models for highly accurate sleep diagnostics. Wearable non-intrusive sensors, improved diagnostics, and artificial intelligence learning are potentially the future of AI diagnostics, not just sleep. Hopefully, this deep learning model can help with OSA diagnostics, assessment, and providing better treatment.


A new study investigates how sleep deprivation impacts the way we perceive food smells, increasing the desire for foods rich in sugars and fat.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Sleep deprivation is bad for you for several reasons. It directly affects your body’s ability to repair itself, and it increases the chances of developing many health conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, fatigue, and many more. But lack of sleep also makes people crave foods rich in sugar and fat.

When we are sleep deprived, we often go for junk food, and it can lead to weight gain and additional health problems. Scientists from Northwestern University wanted to investigate this link and find out what is the reason behind the desire for calorie-dense food choices following a sleepless night.

A new study hints that your nose may be the reason for junk food cravings. Sleep deprivation affects the olfactory system, which leads to a sharper perception of food smells. In addition, the communication between brain centers responsible for receiving food signals breaks down, which is why fries, donuts, and other junk food options seem like the best idea.

When certain parts of the brain aren’t getting proper signals, the brain may try to overcompensate by choosing energy-dense food. The researchers wanted to investigate why there is such a breakdown of communication between different brain regions.

Previous research has identified molecules called endocannabinoids (ECs) that are important for how the brain responds to odors, and they also play an important role in feeding behavior. When we are sleep deprived, there is an increased level of endocannabinoids in our blood. That is why these molecules were the logical suspect for investigation of this sudden change of eating behavior.

To investigate, researchers examined how sleep deprivation influenced food choices and how levels of an endocannabinoid called 2-oleoylglycerol (2-OG) changed. They tested 25 healthy adults with normal body mass index. Divided into two groups, participants experienced either usual or short sleep periods. After that, researchers analyzed 2-OG levels, food choices, and fMRI scans to see how sleep deprivation impacted brain connectivity.

Interestingly, when sleep-deprived people were given a choice to pick what they want to eat, they chose higher energy food like donuts, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies. Sleep deprivation was also linked to higher levels of 2-OG.

Patients also underwent an fMRI scan before the buffet to help researchers understand how different odors affected signaling between brain regions. Interestingly, the piriform cortex, which is the first cortical brain region to receive olfactory signals, showed that food smells were perceived more strongly than non-food odors in sleep-deprived patients.

But that is not all.

The fMRI scans showed increased activity in the piriform cortex when sleep deprived patients encountered food odors. Source: Northwestern University

The piriform cortex sends signals to another region called the insular cortex, which is responsible for food intake and feelings of satiety. But when subjects were sleep-deprived, this connection was weaker, and it was also linked with an increase in 2-OG levels.

In conclusion, a lack of sleep influences the endocannabinoid system, which then affects different brain areas, and the result is an increased preference for energy-packed foods. The statistics show an alarming rate of sleep deprivation and obesity in the US, and these findings could help scientists to develop new ways of battling both things at once.



A new study explores how regular and irregular sleep patterns affect cardiovascular health in middle aged to older adults with diverse ethnic background.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Cardiovascular diseases are a group of conditions affecting blood vessels and heart, and they are the number one cause of death around the world, killing almost 18 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization.

When we talk about cardiovascular health prevention, exercise and diet get most of the spotlight. And although we do know that proper rest is also essential for our cardiovascular system, most recommendations focus solely on how long we sleep. A new study published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology proposes that sleep patterns are a more significant risk factor for cardiovascular health than sleep duration. There are more factors determining sleep quality, and focusing only on sleep duration may not be the best solution when it comes to heart diseases.

Our internal clocks are responsible for keeping metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep patterns running smoothly. So what exactly happens when the irregular sleep disturbs our internal clocks? Researchers from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital measured that exact effect.

The investigators examined data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The study included 1992 participants with diverse ethnic backgrounds and no history of cardiovascular diseases at the beginning. All the subjects were aged 45-84 years, and they were required to wear a wrist activity tracker for seven days. The device recorded their sleep activities and patterns.

After the initial measurements, participants were followed for five years on average. During that period, 111 subjects experienced a cardiovascular event, including strokes, heart attacks, and other adverse incidents.

Researchers then divided participants into four groups depending on their sleep patterns. When it comes to sleep duration, the most irregular group had more than two-hour difference on a night to night basis, while the most regular one had less than an hour. The investigators also considered consistency, and they compared subjects with the most consistent schedules against those whose bedtimes varied each night significantly.

The results showed that cardiovascular events were most common in people with the most irregular sleep patterns. In fact, they estimate that only 8 in 1000 people with regular sleep patterns would have a cardiovascular event over one year, while that number rises to 20 in people with an irregular sleep schedule.

These results show that sleep consistency is another important indicator of sleep quality, besides sleep duration. The authors expressed an interest in researching this topic even further. They want to know whether an intervention such as a more regular sleep schedule could decrease a person’s risk of a cardiovascular event. Until then, findings from this study confirm how important it is to maintain good sleeping hygiene.


A new study from UC Berkley highlights the importance of deep sleep in dealing with stress and anxiety. It is essential for both prevention and recovery.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, and many people deal with it every day. No matter how much you try to avoid stressful situations, it is impossible to remove them completely from your life. Learning how to cope with stress and anxiety is essential if you want to minimize their effect on your health.

According to a new study from the University of California, Berkley, sleep is an effective way to get your emotions in order. In fact, they claim that losing a night of sleep can lead to a 30% rise in anxiety levels the following day.

We all know that sleep is vital for our well-being, as lack of proper rest often leaves us irritable, prone to mood swings, and unable to concentrate or perform mentally. And according to UC Berkley researchers, a specific phase of sleep is responsible for resetting our anxious brains.

When we fall asleep, we experience a couple of light sleep phases at the beginning, following by deep sleep, and then finally rapid eye movement (REM) stage. It seems that deep sleep is particularly important for reducing stress and anxiety, as neural oscillations are deeply synchronized, and blood pressure and heart rate drop. That gives a perfect opportunity to reorganize connections in the brain and repair damage.

Study authors point that sleep is a natural remedy for anxiety disorders that are on the rise in the US, with over 40 million Americans suffering from them. What’s concerning is that we see a trend of prevalence increase in children and teens. But when you account for the fact that most children and teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep regularly, it all makes sense.

Using a series of experiments, researchers from UC Barkley scanned the brains of 18 young adults, while they watched disturbing video clips. The investigators wanted to see if there was any difference if the participants viewed stirring videos after a sleepless or a night full of sleep. They used polysomnography and functional MRI for measuring brain and other activity, and each session was followed by a questionnaire to assess the level of anxiety in participants.

As expected, subjects who slept less had an increased anxiety response to viewing those disturbing videos. Brain scans showed complete inhibition of the prefrontal cortex, which generally keeps stress and anxiety in check. Additionally, emotional centers in the brain were overactive.

More importantly, after a night full of sleep, anxiety levels dropped significantly. And there was a positive correlation with deep sleep, meaning that participants who experienced more deep sleep had lower anxiety levels.

These findings show that deep sleep is essential for both the prevention and mediation of stress and anxiety.

Researchers managed to replicate their results in another similar study with 30 participants, where participants who got the most deep sleep also experienced the lowest anxiety levels the following day.

Additionally, researchers conducted an online study following 280 subjects for four days and tracking their anxiety levels. The results were similar to previous studies. But interestingly, even the slightest changes in deep sleep affected the anxiety levels.

All these findings support the argument that sleep recommendations should be a part of managing anxiety disorders. More importantly, sleep could be an excellent natural prevention for developing these conditions in the first place.


Disturbed sleep has a huge effect on mood, emotional state, and daytime functioning. This study researches the impact of poor sleep at an early stage.

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Last Updated: Fri, April 21, 2023

Sleep is one of the most important things at a young age. It is essential for proper physical and mental development, as well as emotional well-being. If you thought that depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems are reserved for adults only, you couldn’t be more wrong.

An increase in the prevalence of these conditions in children shows that the situation is very serious, and we might have to look for triggers at the early stage of development.

A new study from the University of Birmingham investigates a link between sleep problems at an early age, and how they affect later emotional development. The results show that infants with poor sleep quality have a higher chance of developing depression, anxiety, or behavioral problems as toddlers.

Although it is well known how sleep disturbances can impact mood, irritability, and behavioral difficulties during the daytime, this study investigates how poor sleep affects behavioral and emotional health later in childhood.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham collaborated with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare to find out the impact of night awakenings, prolonged period of falling asleep, and short sleep duration on emotional state and behavioral problems in toddlers at 24 months.

The team used the results from sleep questionnaires from a study where parents reported sleep quality of their children at 3, 8, 18, and 24 months. They gathered the information from almost 1700 parents. Later, those results were compared with an additional questionnaire on emotional and behavioral state at 24 months, filled by 950 parents.

The results showed frequent night awakenings at three months of age to be strongly linked to the inability to control emotions and behavior, and overall emotional problems in toddlers. Additionally, both short sleep and longer sleep onset were correlated to behavioral problems at 24 months, such as temper tantrums.

According to these findings, it is easy to conclude the enormous importance of sleep quality on mental health and the development of healthy coping mechanisms at a later age. These sleep disturbances could have different origins, form genetics to environmental factors. Of course, detecting poor sleep at a young age is vital for healthy development.

Authors highlight the importance of more research in this area, as well as developing novel interventions for infants with sleep problems, as it could be particularly beneficial for healthy emotional state and behavioral control in children.