Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More and more children are experiencing sleep deprivation

It may be the trappings of our high tech age, or the modernity of our changes in lifestyle or it may be both, but a growing number of children are experiencing sleep deprivation, according to Dr Rachel Salas, of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dr Salas spoke with Body & Soul for this article. She said in the four years she’s been at Johns Hopkins’ Sleep Disorders Center, she’s noticed a growing trend of teenagers and young adults with circadian rhythm problems.

These are young people that are sleep deprived because their body’s natural sleep and wake rhythm have gone off kilter.

Dr Salas believes that technology, coupled with increased loads of homework are partly to blame.

“Children are having such loaded schedules, with homework, extracurricular activities and social activities. It’s biting into their sleep time,” she said.

And she noted that the way we live our lives is increasingly blurring when we should be going to sleep and when we should be awake.

We can do almost anything we need to 24 hours a day thanks to computers and the Internet. So we’re always on, she said. And she noted that we tend to come home, put on relaxing clothes and watch TV or videos or use the Internet or other electronic device.

“Even when they are off (electronic devices), the blue light on them suppresses the production of melatonin in the body,” she said. Melatonin is a natural hormone that signals the brain for the body to sleep.

“Everything is open,” she said, “so the brain does not get the cues of when bedtime is. People have moved away from sleep routines. Nobody puts on pyjamas anymore; they fall asleep in the comfy sweats or T-shirts they changed into when they came home. And they don’t go to bed at the same time every night,” she added.

She said it’s important for people to consistently get enough sleep and having a routine helps.

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