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In the old days, it used to only be that hard-working and dedicated high school student who was sleep-deprived trying to fit everything in to make their college application look as spiffy as possible, but no longer. Due to the increased pressures of school and education, guilt-ridden working parents who have trouble saying “no”, I-pods, texting, Facebook, and many other twenty-first century advents, we now have a new cohort of sleep deprived folks: Preadolescents.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of middle-school children aren’t getting enough of their needed 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night and as many as 10% of kids Nationwide fall asleep in class. The results of sleep deprivation is nothing new and can include the following symptoms: acting out ; inappropriate behavior; inability to focus; depression, and weight gain. Physically, sleep deprived children release “counter-regulatory” hormones, namely Adrenaline and Cortisol, which then naturally make kids hyper and off topic. In other words, their lack of sleep causes a short-circuit in their brains.
Obviously then, the potential for misdiagnosis is huge and many children are then either medicated or treated for a condition that could be ultimately fixed if they got a good night’s sleep. But, any parent will tell you, getting a pre-teen to “go to sleep” is not an easy task. After all, they are feeling pretty independent these days and often leave their parents in the dark. But, when it comes to the health and welfare of a child, then the gloves come off and parents need to be parents. Although it is always easier for parents to say “yes”, they must also say “no” and mean it especially when it comes to being healthy.
The conclusion is clear. Work with your child. Help them better balance their schedules, activities, Skype-time, whatever and make them hit the sack at a decent hour. Lights out means lights out.
Dr. Keith Kanner is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychologist and Psychoanalyst. In addition to running a full-time private practice, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of California San Diego where he teaches both human development and also trains medical students how to better understand and relate to their patients. He also serves as the Director of Clinical Counseling for La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla, California, and is a Clinical Professor at The San Diego Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Dr. Kanner also sits on the National Board of Directors for Kids Korps USA, which is the largest organization in the country that teaches children and adolescents the importance of volunteering to help the community at large. As a father of three children, he is also a dedicated baseball, football, and soccer coach.