PHILADELPHIA (CBS)— Getting the kids to bed can be hard, but those late nights could be affecting their brain development, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Zurich suggest that sleep deprivation is affecting children’s brains differently than adults’.

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“The process of sleep may be involved in brain ‘wiring’ in childhood and thus affect brain maturation,” explains Salome Kurth, first author of the study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and a researcher at the University Hospital of Zurich. “This research shows an increase in sleep need in posterior brain regions in children.”

The study contrasts with what researchers already know: that the effect is typically concentrated in the frontal regions of the brain which deal with memory functions.

Kurth and her colleagues studied the 50% sleep deprivation in a group of 13 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years. The team first measured the children’s deep sleep patterns during a normal night’s sleep. They then re-measured on another night after the researchers had kept the children up well past their bedtimes by reading and playing games with them.

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According to the study, after only getting a half of a night’s worth of sleep, the children showed more slow-wave activity towards the back regions of the brain, which may suggest that lack of sleep affects different parts of the brain when compared to that of an adult.

Kurth also measured how the sleep loss effect correlated with the myelin content of the brain — a cornerstone of brain development.

“The results show that the sleep loss effect on the brain is specific to certain regions and that this correlates with the myelin content of the directly adjacent regions: the more myelin in a specific area, the more the effect appears similar to adults,” says Kurth. “It is possible that this effect is temporary and only occurs during a ‘sensitive period’ when the brain undergoes developmental changes.”

Kurth says further exploration is needed on how insufficient sleep affects early brain developmental processes in the long term. However, he still believes the there’s a notable difference on kids’ brains than on adults.

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