New research from the US has linked alcohol exposure in the womb to poor sleep in adulthood.
The researchers studied the behaviour of adult mice that had been injected with a single dose of pure alcohol a week after birth. This is equivalent to a woman drinking a large quantity of alcohol in the last three months of pregnancy.
The mice that were exposed to alcohol didn’t get as much slow-wave sleep as other mice in the experiment.
Slow-wave sleep is important because it is when the brain turns the day’s events into long-lasting memories. It is also restorative.
The mice that were exposed to alcohol were more likely to be hyperactive and to suffer from memory problems.
Scientists from New York University say that although the study was in mice, it is very relevant to humans.
Researcher 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."
In Australia the current guidelines advise woman to avoid alcohol in pregnancy.
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