Child Sleep Deprivation Linked To Learning Problems

Our culture thrives on sleep deprivation. We all seem to think we can get by on 6 hours a night and call it normal. We do to much and consider sleeping to be laziness. But, according to this study, we have it all wrong. Sleep, natural sleep, not the drug induced kind, is required for optimum brain function. A University of British Columbia professor, Wendy Hall, says sleep is affecting up to 70% of our kids. It results in behavioral, learning, obesity, and mental health issues. She says using melatonin long term is risky as we don’t know what long term effects are, yet we give it to 30% of children to get them to sleep. What are we to do?

The new study examined 350 children brought to a pediatric emergency department for issues other than sleep deprivation. The study found 80 per cent of the children with underlying medical conditions had trouble sleeping, and 70 per cent of the otherwise healthy children reported sleep problems.

About one-third of the parents of children with sleep problems reported giving them sleep-aids like antihistamines and painkillers, while half the parents chose the sleep hormone melatonin.

“Parents are looking for silver-bullet solutions,” Hall said. “But nothing in life is free. If you are given melatonin, there will be some side effects.”

Michelle Ferreri, an Ontario-based parenting blogger, has stepped into the sleep-time debate with a frank disclosure of her own family’s experiences. Ferreri said her eight-year-old son Giorgio had struggled to settle into sleep since he was a toddler and his sleep deprivation was impacting his daytime activities. The family tried sleep therapist’s recommendations, but nothing worked. Giorgio was also diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Parents are looking for silver-bullet solutions

Ferreri said she finally decided to try melatonin. It worked like magic, she said, and things have improved for Giorgio and the whole family.

Ferreri said she is not surprised that the study showed so many children have problems with sleep, and many parents are using melatonin.

“It works well, and it works quickly,” she said. “I am concerned if there is long term effects because I don’t want to be giving my kid something that is dangerous. But you still have to look at the risk-reward. My naturopath told me if your body needs melatonin you will respond to it, and if you don’t, it won’t.”

Hall said there is discussion among doctors in Canada who believe Attention Hyperactivity Disorder is being highly misdiagnosed in children who are actually experiencing chronic sleep deprivation.

This is a topic that will require a lot more study and discussion. There is a lot of concern from researchers around the role of electronic devices and screen time among children and it’s role in suppressing melatonin production and therefore sleep.

Read the rest of Dr Hall’s comments here.

For suggestions on helping kids sleep check out Sam Cooper’s list- click [nextpagelink][/nextpagelink]

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