– William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Another insight from the new book Nurtureshock is that one of the biggest issues with children and teens today is that almost universally, the world over, cheldren are getting an hour less sleep every day than they did thirty years ago. This is the source of innumerable problems. For example, researchers were trying to correlate behavior such as TV watching with teen obesity. They couldn’t do it. Thin kids watch just as much TV as fat kids. But they DID find a correlation with overweight – and lack of sleep. Yes, lack of sleep can make you fat. The hormones that are required to properly burn fat are manufactured by the body during sleep. What’s more, lack of sleep produces the stress hormone cortisol, which causes fat to be stored. This stress hormone can also cause high blood pressure and heart disease.
For children, one of the primary problems with lack of sleep is that memory is processed during sleep. Our body uses that time to process and categorize memories. For children who are learning huge amounts of new information every day, lack of sleep can seriously interfere with learning and development. Some high schools that have experimented with starting school later in the morning resulted in a dramatic increase in student test scores.
Lack of sleep also compromises the immune system making us more susceptible to disease. Even cancer is associated with sleep loss.
Sleep deprivation also causes mood disturbances, depression, moodiness and the inability to concentrate. All of which are now cronic complaints of modern teens. In fact, if we look at all the typical complaints of teenagers, they are a list of the symptoms of sleep deprivation.
For kids, lack of sleep is physically and emotionally devistating. But it doesn’t do the rest of us any good either. Our bodies are intended by nature to begin sleep soon after the sun goes down and awaken about when it comes back up. If we have so many commitments and activities that we can’t get good sleep time, we need to re-evaluate our priorities.
Sleep can also be a time for serious spiritual development. Take look at our articles on lucid dreaming, for example.