HEALTH MATTERS: Lay off the 'Junk Sleep'

Aida Nassar
4 Min Read

Getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour is only part of the challenge, and it’s no longer a simple matter of checking for flashlights under the covers of children who can’t seem to put their book down. With tech gadgets invading the home, more and more children are falling asleep listening to music, watching TV or using other electronic gadgets. The Sleep Council in Britain coined the term “Junk Sleep to describe this phenomenon of poor quality sleep.

A recent British poll of 1,000 children between the ages of 12 and 16 revealed that about 30 percent sleep between four and seven hours a night, according to reports by the local paper The Daily Mail. This is a far cry from the recommended eight to nine hours.

This is an incredibly worrying trend, Dr.Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Center told Reuters. 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.

As Reuters noted in its report, nearly all of the teenagers surveyed had a phone, music system, or TV in their bedroom and two-thirds of them had all three. That doesn’t even take into account the growing number of teenagers that have their computers in their bedroom.

This is not a foreign phenomenon that we can brush aside. Among affluent Egyptian teens, “Junk Sleep is thriving.

Kenzie Imam, 15, goes to bed around 10:30 pm on school nights in line with her parentally-imposed lights out. “But I don’t get to sleep until 12:30 am, she told Daily News Egypt. “My parents force me to go to bed when I’m not tired, so I listen to music to help me fall asleep.

So with slightly over 6 hours of sleep before the alarm clock goes off in the morning, how does she feel? “Really tired, she admits.

It’s no surprise that experts have linked poor-quality sleep with poor performance at school, according to reports by The Daily Mail. There is also evidence that a lack of sleep can increase cravings for sugary and high-fat foods, which can lead to unnecessary weight gain.

Of course, tech gadgets aren’t the only things keeping teens awake at night. There’s also long hours of homework, stress over pending tests and exams, and, of course, girlfriend and boyfriend troubles.

What is surprising is that a mere 11 percent of the children polled said they were bothered by the lack or quality of sleep. Children need to learn that sleep is important for their health, the Sleep Council remarked.

I m staggered that so few teenagers make the link between getting enough good quality sleep and how they feel during the day, Idzikowski was reported to have said.

Teenagers need to wake up to the fact that to feel well, perform well and look well, they need to do something about their sleep.

Professor Jim Horne, director of Loughborough s Sleep Research Center in the UK, told BBC reporters that advising teenagers to get more sleep was easier said than done.

I have two teenage kids, and the advice will just fall on deaf ears, he said.

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