What is lack of rest doing to us? Recently I was asked that by Erin Andersen of the Lincoln Journal Star in an article that appeared today:http://m.journalstar.com/mobile/article_e6aae064-bf79-11df-8427-001cc4c03286.html.
Here are some answers:
Are kids fatter? Yes, and the data are worrisome. Recent articles here have talked about how relatively minor sleep deprivation in toddlers increases obesity, but the data are similar for all ages. At the last Vancouver Pediatrics Meetings, teenagers getting less than 9 hours sleep a night were showing weight gain – and we’re not even looking at the larger question of active rest. In adults, sleep less – weigh more.
Are kids dumber? At least as far as school performance, high school students who sleep more get better grades, as do undergraduates; don’t sleep through the first hours of class, as do many kids today; don’t have the time for memory consolidation that full sleep, with large periods of deep sleep (with production of growth hormone) and REM create. That’s before considering the effects of brain interruption on deeper thinking, which multitasking produces in spades (see more with articles at Huffington Post on brain overload and Nick Carr’s book “The Shallows”). Whether we like it or not, the brain does one thing at a time, and attention can markedly improve with active rest techniques.
Are kids angrier? Certainly with sleep loss there is irritability, and in the recent Australian studies, more conduct disorders and depression when kids rest less. An important paper by Mauricio Fava of Mass. General done long ago showed about half of adults who are depressed are angry much of the time, and the same appears true with adolescents.
Are kids sicker? Here, there is more data with adults. Sleep loss leading to more colds; more flus; more serious infections; more coronary calcification, a process that starts early on in life; more GI distress.
The bottom line is the same – rest is regeneration. Short shrift it and your body does not rebuild the way it should, which is also another definition for illness. Rest is not immobility, but the stuff of health itself. We love food, which like rest also rebuilds us. We should love active rest which can lead to real rejuvenation. Don’t you want to grow new brain cells at night?
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