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Irregular bedtimes may slow children's minds, choir singing regulates heartbeats and why not to conceive in May

A round-up of the morning’s health news headlines on Tuesday 9 June.

Irregular bedtimes may affect children’s brains, scientists from University College London have found.

The effect was more pronounced in girls than boys but both performed worse on mental tasks in the study than children whose parents said they were put to bed at the same time every night, The Guardian reports.

The research suggested that irregular bedtimes affect the brain’s ‘plasticity’, or ability to store and learn new information.

The scientists found that a regular bedtime was particularly important at the age of three, and that keeping irregular bedtimes seemed to have a cumular effect which saw the children having problems with learning later on.

‘Age three seems to be where you see the largest effect and that is a concern,’ said Amanda Sacker, professor of lifecourse studies at UCL.

‘If a child is having irregular bedtimes at a young age, they’re not synthesising all the information around them at that age, and they’ve got a harder job to do when they are older. It sets them off on a more difficult path,’ she added.

Meanwhile, US researchers have concluded that it is not so good to get pregnant in May after studying health data of nearly 1.5 million children, The Independent reports.

They found women who conceived in May were more likely to give birth to underweight, premature babies who carry a higher risk of health problems in later life.

They linked the findings to the greater likelihood of contracting seasonal flu in January and February, known to increase the risk of premature birth.

By following children of the same mother, the scientists could eliminate other possible influences on premature births, such as social class or race, said Professor Janet Currie, of Princeton University.

‘The funny take-home message from the study is that people should avoid getting pregnant in May but the more practical message is that pregnant women should consider getting a flu shot or avoid getting flu if at all possible,’ she said.

Regularly singing in a choir may be as good for your health as yoga, The Telegraph reports.

Researchers have found singers’ heartbeats are regulated as they breathe in and out in unison to make song, finding a potential explanation to why choral singing is said to be good for you.

The scientists from the University of Gothenburg said singing together creates a calm and regular breathing pattern - like in yoga exercises - and therefore regulates the beating of the heart.

Björn Vickhoff, who led the study, explained: ‘Singing regulates activity in the so-called vagus nerve which is involved in our emotional life and our communication with others and which, for example, affects our vocal timbre.

‘Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states.’

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