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"Junk sleep" Damaging Teenagers' Health

September 15, 2007 | 41,391 views
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Electronic gadgets have overtaken many teenagers’ bedrooms, damaging their health due to lack of sleep, according to a British survey.

The Sleep Council warns that “junk sleep” could rival the unhealthy junk food craze as a major lifestyle issue for parents of teenage children.

Their poll of 1,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 to 16 revealed that 30 percent got only four to seven hours of sleep. And almost 25 percent said they fell asleep while watching TV, listening to music, or perusing some other electronic gadget.

About 40 percent said they felt tired each day, and some 20 percent of the boys admitted their quality of sleep was affected by leaving their TV or computer on. However, only 11 percent said they were bothered by the lack of quantity, or quality, of sleep.

Dr. Chris Idzikowski with the Edinburgh Sleep Centre stated, “What we are seeing is the emergence of Junk Sleep – that is sleep that is of neither the length nor quality that it should be in order to feed the brain with the rest it needs to perform properly at school.”

The Sleep Council Press Release

The Sleep Council Teenage Sleep: Facts, Figures & Tips

Scientific American August 28, 2007




Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Sleep is sorely underrated when it comes to health – it’s no wonder most teenagers don’t consider it a problem.  

How Can You Help Your Child Get the Sleep They Need? 

Talking to your children about the benefits of proper sleep may help, however you may need to take the reins and limit the amount of electronic distractions you allow your child to have in their bedroom. 

The Facts, Figures & Tips sheet provided by the Sleep Council (see link above) is a good place to start when talking to your young ones. They’ve done a good job of pointing out the benefits that teenagers in particular are more likely to respond to, such as: 

  • Hormonal changes caused by lack of sleep can lead to increased appetite and increased weight.
  • Lack of sleep limits the body’s ability to store carbs and regulate hormone levels. These physical changes end up mimicking the hallmarks of advanced ageing, making you look (and feel) less attractive.
  • These hormonal disruptions also pave the way for more zits and facial breakouts.
  • Lack of sleep leads to decreased ability to concentrate, making you appear clumsy.  

Turning off the TV at a set time, or removing the TV from your child’s bedroom, should be first on your list if you want to ensure a good night’s sleep.

I also suggest reading my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for simple tips on improving your sleep and that of your children. Whether you are not able to fall asleep, wake up too often, or don't feel well rested when you wake up in the morning, my guidelines will provide you with various useful techniques to improve these problems. Some of my recommendations include:

  • Avoid bedtime snacks, particularly grains and sugars, which will raise your blood sugar and inhibit your sleep.
  • Sleep in complete darkness or as close to it as possible. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin. Additionally, if you have to go to the bathroom at night, keep the bathroom light off. As soon as you turn on that light, you will (for that night) immediately cease all production of the important sleep aid melatonin.
  • Keep the temperature in the bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes and particularly the upstairs bedrooms too hot.
  • Make sure you exercise regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes everyday can help you fall asleep. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can do it.

Exercise also has the ability to help you release underlying anxieties that might impair your sleep. According to the Sleep Council’s press release, worry affects the sleeping patterns of 57 percent of all teenagers, and increases with age. A whopping 79 percent of the 15- to 16-year-old girls said worry affected their quality of sleep. 

How Electro Magnetic Fields Affect Your Sleep

But many teens also have a multitude of other electronic gadgets in their rooms, aside from TV’s (and this trend is certainly not limited to Great Britain.)  

This trend exposes them to an inordinate amount of electric field radiation. A previous study funded by the Electric Power Research Institute found that even relatively small changes in EMFs have an observable impact on lowering melatonin levels, which can lead to disturbed sleep and insomnia.

Melatonin is a hormone that helps your body regulate its daily (or "circadian") rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle. According to that study, a doubling of nighttime magnetic field exposure is associated with an average decrease in melatonin production of about 8%. Tripling the nighttime magnetic field is linked to a 15% reduction in melatonin production.

The body normally produces more melatonin in darkness than in daylight, so it makes sense you wouldn’t want to lower your melatonin production at night, when you’re aiming for restful sleep.

Making sure your child gets the proper amount and quality of sleep will not only help them maximize their performance at school, but it’s also vital for their long-term mental and physical health, and overall well-being.

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