New research suggests that drinking during pregnancy can have a serious impact on a child’s sleep for their entire life, even if it was as little as one drink.
The research was carried out by the US medical journal ‘Neuroscience’, who analysed the behaviour of mice after injecting them with a dose of pure alcohol a week after birth.
While you’d think injecting something with ‘pure alcohol’ would be enough to induce some sort of coma, it actually roughly equates to if a pregnant mother were to drink regularly for the last three months of her pregnancy.
The researchers at New York University found that the mice who had been injected experienced less ‘slow-wave sleep’ which is the deepest phase of sleep. Where the body does most of it’s restoration work and most dreaming takes place
It was also found that the mice were more likely to be hyperactive and suffer memory problems (side effects that sound a bit more akin to the alcohol we’re used to!).
Of course you may point out that this study was only on mice, but the scientists believe that the results could be relevant to humans too.
Exposure to alcohol in the womb is already known to lead to foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which can cause a manner of problems such as learning difficulties, memory problems and clumsiness, but the scientists believe that it may also have an impact on the development of parts of the brain which are involved in regulating sleep.
One of the researchers, Professor Donald Wilson said: “We have known for a long time that sleep fragmentation is associated with impaired cognitive function, attention and emotional regulation.
“Our study shows for the first time that binge alcohol exposure early in life results in long-lasting slow-wave sleep fragmentation, which, in turn, is associated with learning problems.”
While there is some debate over how much is too much for pregnant mothers to drink, bearing in mind it can lead to miscarriages, still-births and birth defects, the sensible advice is to avoid it altogether.