Thursday, 11 July 2013

Virtual Overload Disrupts Sleep

More Kiwi children are being treated for sleep disorders after overloading on technology before bedtime.
Specialists say computers, gaming consoles and texting disturb sleep patterns and cause learning, concentration and growth problems.
Dr Alex Bartle, director of the Sleep Well Clinic, which has branches in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, said there was no question technology kept children awake.
Computer games and social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook were worse than TV for over-stimulating young minds because they were more "interactive".
They should be switched off at least an hour before bedtime. "To fall asleep, you need to have a certain amount of calmness in the brain," said Bartle. "To be agitated or excited doesn't help those brainwaves settle."
In Britain, National Health Service data show almost 3000 under-11s were referred to specialists for problems, such as insomnia and sleep-walking in 2006, up 26 per cent from 2002.
While there are no figures in New Zealand, experts have no doubt the number of children needing help is increasing.
"We have the same sorts of technology, the same lifestyles," said Bartle. "We certainly see it on a regular basis at the clinic."
Professor Philippa Gander, director of Massey University's Sleep/Wake Research Centre, said poor sleep had been linked to learning, behavioural and growth problems.
A study in a Wellington school a few years ago pinpointed home technology as one factor affecting sleep patterns.
"Seventy-five per cent of the students were getting less sleep than they needed to be well-rested. The students with TVs and computers in their rooms were more likely to report not having enough sleep. I think a TV in the bedroom is a bad idea."
Gander said a follow-up study next month would take account of developments, such as MP3 players.
Bartle said parents should ensure children were well-rested and not kept awake by the technology surrounding them. "They need to encourage kids to get out during the day. Coming home and playing on computers as soon as they get home isn't good from a sleep point of view. Parents need to be strong enough to remove TVs or computers."
The Child Health Research Foundation has funded studies on sleep problems and is awaiting the results.

"He has a brain that doesn't know how to stop."
That's how Christchurch mum Jacki Landon-Lane describes her 8-year-old son Sam who has a reading age of 12 and trouble switching off his active mind at bedtime.
Sweet fruit snacks and taking his laptop to bed didn't help matters either. Sam was often awake three hours after going to bed and rarely slept through the night.
He spent a lot of time on computers and video games, was constantly tired, had trouble concentrating and developed a tic.
Landon-Lane took him to sleep specialist Dr Alex Bartle who recommended curtailing computer use and more time outdoors.
The transformation has been "amazing".
"He sleeps, he's happy, the tic has reduced. He spends more time outside doing things we did as Kiwi kids and he uses the computer only for what it needs to be used for," Landon-Lane said.
-As reported in the Herald on Sunday

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