Don’t leave a phone in your child’s bedroom

Mike the Psych's Blog

talking_with_your_followers_1600_wht_9116Just the presence of a smartphone or device is enough to disturb children’s sleep patterns as they anticipate the possibility of getting a message and can’t relax.

Using devices  at any point in the 90 minutes before bedtime more than doubles the risk of a poor night’s sleep. Even leaving it charging in the corner can have a detrimental effect, possibly because children are subconsciously engaged with them if they know they are within earshot.

Researchers ta Kings College London examined the digital behaviour of 125,000 children across four continents. It’s known from previous studies that around three-quarters of children and adolescents have at least one device in their bedroom at night.

Screen-based media may adversely affect sleep in different ways: psychologically stimulating the brain, delaying or interrupting sleep time, and affecting sleep cycles, physiology and alertness. They effect both the quality and the duration of sleep.

Sleep is undervalued but…

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School pupils need lessons in getting a good night’s sleep

stick_figure_sleeping_1600_wht_5121Teensleep is a project being rolled out in English schools by Oxford University to help pupils sleep better and improve their exam results as a result.

The teenagers will be taught about their body clocks and the circadian rhythm which shifts in their teens and again when they reach their twenties. They will also learn about the damaging effects of watching TV or playing video games late at night and how the blue light from screens disrupts their sleep cycle.

The project will involve 100 schools divided into four groups. One will start classes at 10.00 am or later, one group will receive sleep education, one group will have sleep education and start lessons later, and the fourth (control) group will follow the usual school timetable.

Professor Russell Foster hopes to get enough data from the project to enable a definitive view to be reached. He said “Studies in the States have shown that if you start the school day later you can reduce self-harm and truancy and academic performance goes up.

Pupils’ grades will be measured before and after the interventions and wrist-worn monitors will record sleep patterns. The teenagers’ modes will also be assessed.

One college principal says that “parents have a more relaxed attitude about bedtimes these days and teenagers’ rooms are like entertainment zones. A lot of kids are involved in playing video games against kids from other countries across different time zones so they stay up much later. The 24/7 social media lifestyle is a real issue. If you wake up in the night and find you have to reach for your phone to check what is on, that will prevent you going back to sleep

Many children are suffering from poor quality or disrupted sleep and as a result are tired and irritable in school. They fuel themselves on  caffeine or sugary drinks, and then they can’t sleep. Professor Foster thinks teenagers need nine hours sleep a night for peak intellectual performance.

  • Sleep helps consolidate memories, integrates information, and clears toxins from the brain.
  • Lack of sleep increases impulsivity, reduces empathy and causes memory difficulties. It also releases hormones which make you feel hungry which contributes to the obesity epidemic.

Not everyone agrees with starting school lessons later. As one head said “We have to prepare pupils for the adult world, which often doesn’t revolve around them”.

Improve your sleep by:

  1. making sure your bedroom is comfortable and dark with no distracting noises
  2. have a winding-down routine 60-90 minutes before bedtime. Read a book or play relaxing music. Write a diary or plan the next day.
  3. switch off all electronic devices and televisions at least an hour before you want to sleep
  4. don’t use smart phones, iPads or watch TV in bed
  5. set a regular time to get up and stick to it
  6. if you are not asleep in 15 minutes go through your winding-down routine again until you feel sleepy

Too many people are addicted to their smart phones and suffer from FOMO. Students are particularly obsessed with social media

Source: Sunday Times

See previous post on getting a good night’s sleep and becoming smarter

Middle-aged advised to get to bed more

stick_figure_sleeping_1600_wht_5121They need the sleep apparently. It’s the best medicine for middle aged people as research shows that lack of sleep is linked to ill-health including heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Lack of sleep is blamed on shift work, and night shifts in particular, and the use of smart phones and laptops in bed. Working on a computer at or shortly before bedtime is particularly bad for you as your melatonin levels are reduced. Melatonin is a hormone that indices sleepiness.

Research at Surrey University has shown that more than 700 genes – including those linked to immunity and inflammation – are altered when your sleep is reduced to less than six hours a day.

Middle-aged people are believed to particularly at risk because of increased work and family demands.

However Professor Jim Horne who established the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University is not convinced that there would be benefits from a campaign targeting sleep as planned  by Public Health England.

He thinks it’s the quality not quantity of sleep that’s important and doesn’t believe that there is convincing evidence that we’re getting less sleep than our forefathers.

If you’ve already stopped smoking, are taking more exercise and cut down on the booze then getting more sleep is something else you can try.

UPDATE September 12 2015

The wrong amount of sleep can make you ill. Sleeping too much i.e. more than 9 hours a night, or too little i.e. fewer than 5 hours a night, can increase the deposits of calcium which clog up the coronary artery.

Women are at a greater risk of getting a lesion in this artery as a result of poor sleep than men.

The scientists who carried out the research on 29,000 people in South Korea, found that seven hours sleep was the optimal amount. “Inadequate sleep is a common problem and a likely source of poor health including visible signs of disease such as heart attack”

People who slept for more than 9 hours had 70% more calcium in their coronary artery than those who slept 7 hours. People who slept for less than 5 hours had 50% more.

The changes might be the result of the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, throwing the body’s biochemistry out of balance.

Statins making women more aggressive!

stick_figure_sitting_on_pills_1600_wht_13337Statins, hailed as the wonder drug all of us should be given after a certain age, and designed to reduce our cholesterol levels, have been found to have some unwelcome side effects.

Scientists have found that women over 45, who haven’t previously shown any inclination to be violent, tend to be more aggressive when taking statins.

According to Professor Beatrice Golomb at the University of California said “Many studies have like low cholesterol to increased risk of violent actions ands death from violence” (whether suicide ,accident or homicide).

Her team carried out trials on 1,000 men and post-menopausal women. Those who struggled to get to sleep appeared to be the ones at most risk of a surge in aggression.

While a few men became more aggressive, generally statins seem to make men less angry, particularly younger men (who tend to be more aggressive anyway).

The greater the drop in testosterone for those on the statin simvastatin the greater the drop in aggression on average.

A greater rise in sleep problems for those on it was significantly linked to a greater rise in aggression.

So if you’re a post-menopausal women taking statins and having trouble sleeping – you may be more prone to violent outbursts. Partners beware!

Midlife sleeping rules

stick_figure_sleeping_1600_wht_5121Sleep problems often arise when you reach your 50s and can become a real problem in your sixties when about 50% of people struggle to get to sleep or  stay asleep in the early hours.

And at times like Xmas when we can all get a bit stressed or eat and drink more than we normally do it can stop us getting good quality sleep.

Sleep expert Dr Guy Meadow set out some advice in the Times a short while ago which is worth repeating:

Don’t go to bed too early. Because you go out less you probably go to bed earlier. You might try going to bed later after having a bath or reading so you feel really tired

Don’t drink alcohol before sleep. Alcohol is a sedative but it also disturbs sleep and can arouse your body increasing your heart rate, your sweating, and dehydration.

Check your medication isn’t interfering with sleep. Blood pressure and cholesterol medication can affect sleep quality so check with your GP for alternatives.

Don’t drink too much water. It’s striking a balance between becoming dehydrated and getting up in the night. A glass of water by the bed should help.

Eat light at night. Don’t go to bed on a full stomach as indigestion will keep you awake. Not eating at all and your stomach will let you know of that too. A banana or glass of milk will help but not things that give you a sugar rush and wake you up. Avoid coffee or tea, which both contain caffeine. Try herbal drinks or hot milk

Do some exercise but don’t overdo it. Yoga can improve brain function. Gentle stretching and walking also help (but not in your sleep of course!) Yoga can also calm anxiety.

Open your bedroom window. Sleeping in a stuffy bedroom can impair sleep quality. Staying indoors more and lack of fresh air means a stuffy environment, snoring and poor sleep. Open window even if only while you get ready for bed. It will improve air circulation and stop you over-heating.

Don’t accept snoring. May be caused by smoking, too much alcohol, your medication.  Consider getting a better mattress, a bigger bed or separate duvets.

Practise mindfulness. Dr Meadows prefers teaching mindfulness rather than relaxation exercises as if relaxation doesn’t work that can be a source of frustration. Mindfulness involves focussing on the here and now. How the pillow feels, your own breathing, sounds you can hear.

You can download the Sleep School App which features mindfulness exercises and other advice from thesleepschool.org for £2.99. Click on the support products page.

NB This is not a sponsored posting. I have no connection with Dr Meadow or his products.

Hungry babies are programmed to wake you up

They might wake you up every couple of hours for a feed but all for a good reason.

stick_figure_sleeping_10955It seems babies are evolutionary programmed to do just that.

Researchers at Harvard University looking into breastfeeding and sleeping practices argue that by waking up their Mums for a feed they are delaying the return of her ovulation cycle (as well as reducing the time and energy to have sex).

This helps prevent the birth of a sibling with whom they would have to compete for food.

This can be a substantial benefit when food is scarce. In Somalia for example the mortality rate for 1 year-old children was increased fourfold if they had a younger sibling.

Professor David Haig, writing in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, says “there is no perfect harmony between mother and child. What is best for one is not necessarily best for the other”.

The research might explain why children can revert to waking up frequently in the night after 6 months and why babies fed formula milk tend to sleep more soundly (because there is a weaker incentive to demand food as formula is always available).

Momnesia

is what they are calling it when new mums are focussed so much on their baby’s needs that other parts of the brain take a back seat and they can’t remember things.

Anxiety takes up a lot of the brain’s attention and stress shortens attention spans.

Breast-feeding prolongs the effect but after that there’s every chance that the mums will be even smarter having given their brains a bit of a work-out.

Shortage of sleep is the likely cause of memory loss although it can also be caused by neurological and psychiatric conditions, alcoholism, and sleep apnea.

Recent research has shown that it’s the frequent interruptions that new mums suffer that causes the problem even when the total hours of sleep are the same.

The researchers say sleep continuity is critical for memory.


So don’t rely on your memory but keep a notepad to jot down your “to do” list.