Lead Exposure Contributes to Sleep Problems in Children

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Exposure to lead in early childhood may be associated with an increased risk for sleep problems and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Jianghong Liu, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and colleagues examined data from a longitudinal, cohort study that began in 2004 of more than 1,400 children from China to investigate the impact of lead exposure on children’s neurocognitive, behavioral, and physical development. Lead pollution is a serious problem in China.

Lead levels in the blood of 665 children was assessed when they were between three and five years old, and sleep was assessed when they were between nine and 11 years old. Children and their parents also answered questionnaires about sleep patterns, insomnia, and if they used sleeping pills.

Children who had high blood lead levels reported insomnia and use of sleeping pills were, respectively, two times and three times higher, compared to children with lower levels of lead in their blood, the researchers reported in the journal SLEEP.

“Little is known about the impact of heavy metals exposure on children’s sleep, but the study’s findings highlight that environmental toxins, such as lead, are important pediatric risk factors for sleep disturbance,” Liu said in a statement.

Lead Exposure Contributes to Sleep Problems in Children
Children who had high blood lead levels reported insomnia and use of sleeping pills much higher than those with low lead levels.

A new study has linked exposure to lead in early childhood with an increased risk for sleep problems and excessive daytime sleepiness in early childhood.

The new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is based on data from a longitudinal, cohort study that began in 2004 involving more than 1,400 Chinese children to investigate how lead exposure influences children's neurocognitive, behavioral, and physical health development.

Lead pollution is pervasive throughout China and other developing countries, said the researchers, who noted that while rates of lead exposure are decreasing due to the phase-out of leaded gasoline and increased public awareness, its persistence presents a significant health risk to children.

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