Published on March 12, 2011 by Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. in Mental Wealth
Does your child have trouble sleeping, concentrating, or getting up in the morning? Do they sleep plenty of hours but seem exhausted? Sleep difficulties in children are on the rise–and I expect this trend will get worse before it gets better.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, estimates for the number of children with abnormal sleep range from one in ten in the general population, to 50-75% in children with mental health or developmental/ neurological disorders.
In my practice, parents frequently report their child does not fall asleep easily, is restless at night, or is extremely irritable and disorganized in the morning. Adolescents frequently complain that they can’t sleep, and then feel exhausted the next day–only to have the pattern repeat the following night. As one teen aptly put it, she felt “wired and tired.”
A growing body of evidence shows that video games and other electronics induce the fight-or-flight syndrome, putting the body in a state of stress.
Studies show sustained increases in blood pressure and pulse, even hours after playing a video game. It doesn’t have to be a violent game, or even an action game-or even a game at all! Over time, internet surfing and texting will similarly put the brain and body in a state of stress, just from the high level of visual and cognitive stimulation.
These changes inevitably cause sleep issues. Even if your child sleeps for eight to ten hours, it doesn’t mean their sleep is restorative. If they’re “revved up” enough during the day, primitive areas of the brain kick in, and send signals to be on-the-alert. From an evolutionary point of view, being vigilant serves to protect us from potential predators. But there’s a cost: deep sleep is sacrificed (because deeper sleep makes one more vulnerable), causing the restorative stages of sleep, stages three and four, to be cut short.
Aside from the fight-or-flight state, there are (at least) two other ways video games and electronic devices alter sleep. Both of these reactions reduce melatonin, the chemical signal that tells your brain it’s time to sleep:
The first is due to the unnatural brightness of the screen. Normally, melatonin is released by darkness, and inhibited by light. When the eyes experience intense brightness, they channel that bright light directly to the brain, shutting down the sleep switch. Sleep/wake cycles, or circadian rhythms, are also disrupted. Studies show that dysregulated circadian rhythms causes mood, concentration, and hormonal dysfunction
The second has to do with electromagnetic radiation (EMR), a by-product of anything electronic. Monitors, anything wireless, and internet use compound the level of EMR, making handheld video games particularly toxic. Like bright light, EMR disrupts melatonin release. (It also exacerbates the fight-or-flight state, which you now know is a killer for adequate rest.)
The Kempton West Study in Germany (2007) showed that residents exposed to a wireless cell phone transmitter (which emits high amounts of EMR) installed nearby developed dramatic changes in their melatonin and serotonin (another brain chemical, related to feeling calm and having a sense of well-being) regulation, within five months of the wireless transmitter arriving. Interestingly, nighttime melatonin was reduced in the majority of the subjects, while daytime melatonin increased.
Essentially, the melatonin release “flattened out” and shifted to being released in the morning. This effectively reduced deep sleep and at the same time caused a feeling of exhaustion upon awakening in the study participants–the “wired and tired” effect.
It’s important to remember that children’s brains are more sensitive to environmental influences than adults, because a young brain is actively growing and changing, among other reasons. It’s not as “hard-wired” as an adult brain. With some children, it’s obvious when they’re not getting adequate shut-eye. With others it’s harder to tell. Here are some signs your child might not be getting restorative sleep:
Complaints of not being able to sleep (even if it appears otherwise)
– Dark circles under the eyes
– Poor memory, poor focus
– Difficulty with learning retention
– Hard to wake up in the morning
– Disorganized in the morning
– Irritability and meltdowns
The good news is that correcting sleep often improves or even reverses mental health symptoms. If you suspect your child may not be sleeping well, or exhibits any of the above, go old-school and simply “unplug” them. Give your child’s brain a rest for a few weeks. Children will naturally engage in more physical, creative play in the absence of electronic entertainment, and won’t be as “wired”.
This sets the stage for healthy sleep, and you may not only banish the wired-and-tired syndrome…you may see a happier and more focused child you barely recognize!
FOR MORE–BABY PJS TO BE WIRED, TOO. AT & T so proud…
Parents to Keep Tabs on Baby Through Wirelessly Connected Pajamas
Dallas, Texas, December 07, 2011
If you’re tired of losing sleep because you can’t take your eye off of the baby monitor, some much needed rest is on the way. AT&T and Exmovere (Frankfurt:X3M) today announced an agreement to wirelessly enable Exmovere’s patented biosensor baby pajamas, Exmobaby.
Exmobaby is a snap-on transmitter designed to measure critical vital signs in infants, including heart rate, skin temperature, moisture and movement. The data is transmitted at regular intervals to the parent’s computer, tablet and smartphone and is used to interpret the baby’s emotional states and behavior, transmitting alerts to parents and caregivers when their babies require attention or care. The wireless transmitter device will be sold with pajama garments available in four sizes ranging from 0 – 12 months. The transmitter device can easily be removed for washing.
With Exmobaby, parents, grandparents and caregivers will be conveniently equipped to monitor an infant when the pajamas with the transmitter are worn. The biosensor capability provides parents with continuous information about their baby and enables baby monitoring.
A significant concern for all parents, and especially new parents, is the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The medical community has yet to identify the causes of SIDS, but there are significant efforts underway in most parts of the world to educate new parents on many of the preventative measures that can be undertaken to ease their fears and help keep their babies safe. [Editor: the SIDS rates are very low in countries where the baby sleeps near their parent. Doctors surmise that hearing the parent breathing stimulates the infant to keep breathing also, as babies are born with this capacity undeveloped and needing stimulus.]
By sending data across the AT&T wireless network, Exmobaby provides tracking and reporting of what babies are actually feeling in real time.
“Providing parents and caregivers access to real-time baby monitoring and special alerts through a wirelessly connected device should help deliver unprecedented peace of mind,” said Glenn Lurie, president, emerging devices, AT&T. “It meets the needs of today’s parents and caregivers who want to stay connected to their children, their well being, and what’s happening around them, especially when it comes to newborns.”
Exmobaby is not designed for medical diagnosis or treatment, nor does the software create any information related to treatment regimens. Exmovere intends to submit pre-market notice to the FDA before releasing Exmobaby to consumers. As a monitor, Exmobaby’s ability to take advantage of biosensor and wireless communication technologies are ahead of traditional, “walkie talkie”-style baby monitors.
“Working with AT&T gives Exmobaby powerful capabilities for parents and child care providers worldwide”, said David Bychkov, CEO of Exmovere Holdings Inc. “And, the scope of AT&T’s wireless networks provides an ideal distribution platform for our flagship technology going forward.
“Exmobaby creates a comprehensive biophysical approach to baby monitoring that delivers useful physiological and movement data in an understandable way,” Bychkov said. “Our cutting edge approach makes it easy for an individual to keep an eye on their baby without actually being there. By utilizing AT&T vast infrastructure and support, Exmobaby can be a game changer for parents, grandparents, and caregivers on a global basis while providing significant revenue for Exmovere shareholders.”
For the complete array of AT&T offerings, visit www.att.com.
*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile broadband and emerging 4G capabilities, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T | DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising.
Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com. This AT&T news release and other announcements are available at http://www.att.com/newsroom and as part of an RSS feed at www.att.com/rss. Or follow our news on Twitter at @ATT.
About Exmovere Holdings Inc.
Exmovere Holdings, Inc. (Frankfurt:X3M) is focused on government and consumer applications for healthcare, mobility, and security and the practical applications of the study of human emotion. The Chariot, Exmobaby pajamas, and the Telepath wristwatch are instrumental in the build out of this vision as a solid representation of Exmovere’s push into enhancing human mobility, infant safety, and telemedicine. The company plans on continuing along a path of solid and emotional driven design with a product offering that changes the way people look at the world.
The company believes these products will continue to be on the cutting edge and establish paradigm shifts in the markets we serve. Further inquiries into any of our exciting and innovative product offerings or our plans for go-to-market introductions during 2011 should be directed to the contact person above.
© 2011 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. Mobile broadband not available in all areas. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.