Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Good's Night Sleep

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“I stay up until 2:00 a.m. every night,” one girl told me. Another student piped in, saying she never made it past midnight. These students have to be checked in at school before 8:00 a.m. every weekday.

“What do you do when you stay up?” I asked. They mentioned TV, video games, and Internet. A junior standing nearby added, “Cell phones. I text. My phone sounds at all hours of the night. Lots of my friends are night owls.”

It doesn’t take a brain scientist to figure out that these girls aren’t getting much quality sleep. And according to researchers, that is a serious problem.

Sleep is something we take very seriously at my house. We work hard to have all our activities wrapped up with time to unwind before the bedtime hour arrives. For my 12-year-old daughter, we target nine hours of sleep. More nights than not, that’s exactly what she gets.

In a report written in Science Daily (2009), researchers surveyed 100 middle and high school students to evaluate their sleep patterns. The majority of the students sampled reported having at least a computer (30%), TV (66%), cell phone (90%) or MP3 player (79%) in their room. Results indicated that only 20 percent slept eight or more hours, with eight to nine being the recommended allotment. Thirty percent of the students surveyed reported falling asleep during school.

Lead researcher Calamaro said, “Parents need to discourage teenagers from drinking caffeine past noon time and keep TVs, computers and especially cell phones out of kids’ bedrooms.”

Some interesting information came from a study out of Northwestern University (BioMedicine/Andrea Browning).

The study evaluated 2,281 children ages 3 to 12 with follow-up study on the children when they were 8 to 17. Researchers determined how much sleep a child got by using bedtime and wake-up times.

Turns out children who slept longer had lower BMI (body mass index measures) than the children who did not. Berger explained, “Specifically, the researchers found that sleeping an additional hour reduced young children’s chance of being overweight from 36 percent to 30 percent, while it reduced older children's risk from 34 percent to 30 percent.”

What I gather from this is that sleep issues have important consequences other than just whether or not a person can stay awake or concentrate the next day. There’s much more to it and I will talk about these issues again next week.

How do you know if your teen is getting enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation says to address the following questions:

1. Does your child have trouble waking up in the morning?
2. Is your child irritable in the afternoon?
3. Does your child fall asleep during the day?
4. Does your child oversleep on the weekend?
5. Does your child have difficulties concentrating or remembering?
6. Does your child report having an interrupted sleep cycle?

Use common sense when making this determination. Look at the facts. How many hours is your child actually sleeping? Then do the math.

Personally, I can answer yes to the first and fourth questions without concern because I know Addy goes to sleep and stays asleep. We talk about how she slept every weekday morning. I also know that there is no TV or computer in her room and the cell phone is tucked away with mine in the kitchen drawer.

Because of the ramifications of not getting enough sleep, the http://www.sleepforkids.org/ website (a service of the National Sleep Foundation) advises: “We need to focus as much on the sleeping half of children’s lives as we do on the waking half.”

Allyn Evans
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