As teenagers across the country head back to school, many are starting what will be yet another year of little sleep. But consider this: A consistent lack of shuteye can be much more serious than feeling fatigued in biology.
Studies show sleep deprivation puts teens at risk for things like car accidents and can lead to poor academic performance and ill health. Citing this topic as an “important public health issue,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a recommendation that middle schools and high schools start classes at or after 8:30 a.m. to allow students the chance to get more sleep regularly.
“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, in an AAP press release.
The AAP states that the optimal amount of sleep time for teens is between 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 hours per night. But as students get older and responsibilities pile up, a mix of homework, extracurricular activities, and after-school jobs leads to even later nights, which can make it very difficult to meet the sleep goal.
The possibility of making this policy change in schools across the nation is also tough. School districts struggle with financial and logistical challenges that include providing school busing services for elementary, middle, and high schools. It can be difficult for enough buses to shuttle kids to all of the schools in one time frame, which can also strain school district budgets. Ultimately, “the issue is really cost,” Kristen Amundson, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, told the AP.
Does your child’s lack of sleep affect her performance at school? Take a look at these tips to boost her school success.
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New Research, Parents News Now
The amount of screen time you allow your kids can be a point of tension in many households. A new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior shows that increased digital use may actually affect pre-teens’ ability to read and interpret people’s nonverbal emotional and social cues.
According to The Los Angeles Times, two groups of children were given two tests, a pre- and a post-experiment test that asked them to decipher the emotions of people shown in photographs and videos. Afterwards, one group continued with their normal plugged-in lifestyle, while the other group spent five days outdoors with peers at a wilderness camp where all electronics (cellphones, televisions, and computers) were banned.
Researchers found that the kids who spent time away from technology scored better on their post-experience test, while those who didn’t scored about the same. This finding underscores the worry that many parents have about the negative impact of prolonged exposure to digital media. “Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education, and not many are looking at the costs,” said Patricia Greenfield, a senior author of the study from UCLA. “Decreased sensitivity to emotional cues — losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people — is one of the costs. The displacement of in-person social interaction by screen interaction seems to be reducing social skills.”
But the good news is that it only took the kids who attended camp a short amount of time improve their emotional recognition ability. And this new piece of research gives the evidence you need to get kids to turn off technology — at least for a few more hours — and interact with friends and family. “The main thing I hope people take away from this is that it is really important for children to have time for face-to-face socializing,” said Yalda Uhls, another author of the study and a Southern California regional director for Common Sense Media,
Would you ever consider asking your family to give up technology? Our Homeschool Den blogger is doing just that this week!
Plus: If you’re hesitant about how to introduce technology to your little one, we’ll show you how with these media-minding tips.
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New Research, Parenting News, Parents News Now
New insight was gained recently into the brains of children with and without autism, according to a study published in the journal Neuron.
Although there are many neurological variations, one major difference between the brains is that the number of synapses (the channels through which neurons send messages) were found to be more than 50 percent higher in children with autism, Reuters reported.
Researchers learned that children whose brains develop normally begin to prune synapses as they age, but children with autism failed to do that effectively. It’s important to note that their brains weren’t producing more synapses; just having trouble paring them down. The overabundance of synapses correlates with the understanding that children with autism deal with sensory overload, as the synapses can stimulate the brain with too much light and sound.
The same study also found that the drug rapamycin had positive effects on lab mice with a specific, rare genetic disease associated with autism. After being given the drug, the mice experienced an improved synapse pruning process, and their autistic-like social behaviors (avoiding interactions) were reversed. “We were able to treat mice after the disease had appeared,” neurobiologist David Sulzer of Columbia University Medical Center, who led the study, told Reuters. Although the drug is currently too dangerous to test on humans, it offers a possibility that a treatment for autism is in reach, “though there is a lot of work to be done,” Dr. Sulzer said.
The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 68 children has some form of autism, which has no treatment plan. If successful, the drug has the potential to be groundbreaking. The nonprofit, Autism Speaks, is already funding multiple studies on rapamycin.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism, download these free family support tool kits from Autism Speaks.
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If you’re thinking of bringing your infant on a flight anytime soon, think again, new research suggests.
While in-flight deaths are rare, a new study has found a pattern among children who did die. Most were healthy children under the age of 2 who were sitting in an adult’s lap during a commercial airline flight, according to research published in the journal, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. The study tracked recorded incidents on thousands of medical emergencies on airlines from 2010 to 2013.
While this study is the first of its kind, research suggests that lap infants were at a greater risk of dying due to in-flight environmental factors, such as sharing a seat with an adult and dangerous co-sleeping arrangements, said Dr. Alexandre Rotta, lead researcher on the study and chief of pediatric critical care at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.It is also possible that lower oxygen levels on planes could harm infants’ immature respiratory systems, Fox News reports. The study also noted that there could be another factor that is causing these deaths that has yet to be identified.
“I hope our findings lead to further research on this important subject,” Dr. Rotta said. “It is my belief the pattern we discovered should promote the development of preventative strategies and travel policies to protect the health of all pediatric airplane passengers, especially infants.”
Follow our six tips for surviving air travel with kids.
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Consumer Reports published a special report today saying that women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid eating all forms of tuna due a high potential for mercury exposure.
These remarks come after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a combined statement in June suggesting that pregnant women eat between 8 and 12 ounces (that’s 2 to 3 servings) of fish per week.
This was the first time either organization had ever recommended a minimum amount of fish that should be consumed, LA Weekly reported, though they have made maximum consumption directives in the past. Their guidelines cited important nutritional benefits that can come from eating fish such as improving growth and development before birth and during infancy.
While the FDA and EPA recommendations do say that pregnant women should monitor the types of fish they’re eating to limit mercury exposure, Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, told The Washington Post simply, “We encourage pregnant women to avoid all tuna.” Mercury exposure before birth can result in neurological disorders and impair development of a baby’s brain and nervous system, among other potential risks, the EPA states.
Not surprisingly, the National Fisheries Institute took issue with CR’s conclusions. In a statement, it said: “Though we urged CR to do a thorough, balanced and science-based job, that obviously did not happen. Minimal research would have presented reporters literally hundreds of independent seafood studies from the FDA to the World Health Organization that clearly demonstrate the net benefit gained from eating seafood, like tuna.”
Confused now? If you’re pregnant, ask your healthcare provider about what’s best for you and your baby. And read about these five simple ways to eat healthier during your pregnancy.
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Parents News Now, Pregnancy