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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Students Sleep Habits Jeopardized By Environmental Factors

From Smart Kids with LD

January 14, 2014

As parents you know the importance of good sleep habits for your children with learning challenges and ADHD. New findings from two recent studies have shed light on surprising factors that may be interfering with your child’s sleep patterns.

Beyond Biology

In one study, University of Cincinnati researchers found that parents, peers, and the social environment had more to do with the number of hours adolescents sleep than their developmental age alone.

According to an article in Education Week, David J. Maume, the lead author of the study, explained that “When adolescents have trouble sleeping, doctors often recommend prescription drugs to address the problem. My research indicates that it’s necessary to look beyond biology when seeking to understand and treat adolescents’ sleep problems.”

Maume’s team found that the factors influencing teenage sleeping habits include homework load, computer use at night, and the quality of their relationships with friends. Specifically:
  • Students with heavy homework loads were more likely to be sleep deprived
  • Students who used computers frequently on school nights were more likely to sleep less and more sporadically
  • Students with positive social relationships enjoyed longer, and less disrupted sleep
  • Students whose parents remained involved and set bedtimes also slept longer and more soundly

Shedding Light on Sleep

In the second study, Education Week reported on another sleep study from Harvard Medical School that found “the use of artificial light from energy-efficient lamps and computer and mobile-electronics screens later in the day can lead to significant sleep problems” for children (and adults).

As stated in the article:

While lights and electronic devices that mimic daylight can improve students’ attention and alertness if used during normal daytime hours, Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, has found exposure in the late afternoon and evening can disrupt sleep cycles as much as six to eight hours—the same amount of “jet lag” caused by a flight from New York City to Honolulu.

“Technology has disconnected us from the natural 24-hour day,” Dr. Czeisler said in a keynote lecture at the Society for Neuroscience meeting held here last month."

The National Sleep Foundation found that blue light—the type of light that interferes with sleep—is found in computers, laptops, and tablet devices used nightly or almost every night by more than half of Americans.

Students exposed to blue light late in the day feel less tired and often do homework or stay online until late at night.

Experts recommend nine hours per night for students from 6th to 12th grades; less than eight hours is considered insufficient.

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