Young people not getting sleep

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A survey, carried out for the BBC suggests that many children are not getting enough sleep.

More than one thousand children aged between nine and 11 across the UK answered a BBC questionnaire. The majority replied saying that they went to bed at 9:30pm.
However, a quarter stated that their bedtime was 10pm or later, and half said that they were not getting enough sleep and wanted more.

Around half of the children surveyed said that they were staying up to play on computer games or their mobile phones or to watch television. More than half claimed to have TVs in their bedrooms.

A human's need for sleep can decline by up to 11 hours a day during the course of a lifetime - from a maximum of 18 hours for a newborn baby to seven hours as an adult. For children aged 10, experts recommend at least 10 hours of sleep a night.

Of the children who filled in the questionnaire, 314 out of 1,083 said they went to bed at 2130, 272 said 2100. A total of 277 said they stayed up until 2200 or later.

A lack of sleep has been linked to problems with concentration, behaviour and school work.

A recent study by academics in Finland suggested that a good night’s sleep could reduce hyperactivity and bad behaviour among children. They said adequate sleep could improve behaviour in healthy children and reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Paul Gringrass, a paediatrician who runs the children's sleep clinic at Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital in London, said: "Children aren't just little adults. There's a huge amount of brain development that's going on and we know that even moderate sleep loss impacts on their ability to concentrate and behave the following day".

In a related story, a new study suggests that teenagers who sleep in are not lazy, but are just not getting enough sunlight in the morning.

Adolescents who spend too much time indoors suffer from a lack of natural blue light, particularly in the morning, which upsets their body clock.

Dr Mariana Figueiro, who led the study at America's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Centre, said: "These morning-light deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardised tests. We are calling this the teenage night owl syndrome.'

Natural light is required to produce the hormone melatonin, which signals when it is time to sleep.
Researchers believe a lack of melatonin makes teenagers go to bed later. This in turn, makes them unlikely to rise early the next day.

The disturbance to sleeping patterns was also causing teenagers to struggle at school because they are too tired to concentrate.

Dr Figueiro said school timetables meant students had to start early so they were likely to miss morning light.

'They are often travelling to school before the sun is up or as it's just rising,' she said.