Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Children who have televisions in their bedrooms have higher risks of developing health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found. More from NBC News:
“Specifically, youngsters ages 5 to 18 who had TVs in their rooms were up to 2.5 times more likely than others to have bigger waists and more fat mass. Those who watched TV more than five hours a day were at twice the risk for fat around their internal organs, a dangerous precursor for disease.
“It’s really troubling to see these kids with fat around their heart and liver,” said Amanda Staiano, a scientist with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.
Staiano and her colleagues knew that previous studies had shown a link among bedroom TVs, longer TV viewing and being overweight or obese, which affects two-thirds of U.S. youth. But in a country where 70 percent of kids have TVs in their rooms, according to a 2010 study, Staiano said they wanted to understand exactly where the kids were adding fat, and whether they were at risk for conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
“We wanted to see kind of a more precise relationship between TV and health,” said Stainao, who studied 369 children and teens in Louisiana. Her findings are reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
They took the kids’ height, weight and waist measurements, logged their blood pressure, analyzed their blood and examined the fat deposits in their bodies using special scanners, among other exams.
Nearly 66 percent of the young people in the study had TVs in their rooms and about a third watched at least five hours of TV a day. There wasn’t a distinction by age, so even the youngest kids — 5-year-olds — had their own TVs, Staiano said.
Those with bedroom TVs had the higher odds for being in the top tiers of kids with extra belly fat, bigger waists, greater risk of heart disease and diabetes and elevated triglycerides, or fat in their bloodstream.
While Stainano’s study couldn’t say whether bedroom TV and long hours in front of the screen actually causes the extra fat and disease risk, it renews the debate about whether TVs should be allowed in kids’ rooms at all.
The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns on the practice, saying children’s TV viewing should be limited to less than two hours a day, ideally in a central location with parents watching, too.”
Image: Kids watching TV in bed, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 8th, 2012
A new study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology has found that teenagers in Japan who use cell phones or other mobile devices after they go to bed face a higher risk of having sleep problems and related mental health problems including depression. From Boston.com:
In the study, researchers investigated nearly 18,000 children in junior high and high schools in Japan, with subjects answering questions about their mental health, in addition to sleep and mobile phone habits. The study follows prior research that finds poor sleep is associated with mental problems in teens. For example, a study published last year in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found teens who had difficulty sleeping were at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts.
Image: Cell phone, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Sleep-training techniques that fall into the controversial “cry-it-out” category are actually effective and do not cause psychological harm if conducted in a controlled, consistent way, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. Time.com has more:
The study looked at two sleep-training methods known as controlled comforting and camping out, both of which let babies cry it out for short amounts of time. Controlled comforting requires the parent to respond to their child’s cries at increasingly longer intervals to try to encourage the baby to settle down on her own. In camping out, the parent sits in a chair next to the child as he learns to fall asleep; slowly, over time, parents move the chair farther and farther away, until they are out of the room and the infant falls asleep alone.
While neither strategy is as extreme as letting babies cry all night by themselves, they have been criticized over concerns that they may cause long-term emotional or psychological harm in babies, interfere with their ability to manage stress or cripple their relationship with their parents.
The new study by Australian researchers involved 326 children who had parent-reported sleep problems at 7 months. Half of the babies were put in the sleep-training group, in which parents learned helpful bedtime routines as well as the controlled-comforting or camping-out technique (parents could choose which strategy they wanted to use), and half were put in a control group that did not use sleep-training. The researchers followed up with the participants and their parents five years later. (By the study’s end, about 30% of families had dropped out.)
By age 6, the researchers found no significant differences between the kids in either group in terms of emotional health, behavior or sleep problems. In fact, slightly more children in the control group had emotional or behavioral problems than in the sleep-trained group.
Researchers also found no differences in mothers’ levels of depression or anxiety, or in the strength of parent-child bonds between families who had used sleep-training and those who hadn’t.
Image: Crying baby in crib, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Mothers who are depressed are more likely to wake up their babies during the night, even if the child is fine, a new study published in the journal Child Development has found. CNN.com reports:
In the study, published in the journal Child Development, researchers at Pennsylvania State University observed 45 families over the course of a week. The children ranged in age from 1 month to 2 years. Moms were asked questions about a variety of issues from how they were doing emotionally to the baby’s sleep patterns.
Cameras were also installed to watch how the moms interacted with their babies in the middle of the night.
Here’s what they found: Moms who had higher levels of symptoms of depression were more likely to respond to minor sounds, wake their baby up and nurse them (even if they weren’t hungry) or pick their sleeping child up and put them in bed with them. It can be a vicious cycle.
“The more sleep you lose, the more likely you are to feel depressed,” says lead author Douglas M. Teti, a professor of human development, psychology and pediatrics at Pennsylvania State University.
Image: Sleeping baby, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Babies and toddlers who snore, gasp for breath at night, or breathe with their mouths open in their sleep are more likely to have behavioral problems later, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found.
The longitudinal study is following 8,000 British children based on surveys filled out by their parents. So far has found that at ages 4 and 7 the children with “sleep-disordered breathing” exhibit behavioral issues from hyperactivity to social problems and emotional issues at a higher rate–50 percent higher at age 7–than children who do not have the disordered breathing.
“It probably has to do with an abnormal gas exchange where the brain gets too little oxygen during sleep, which has potential effects on the prefrontal cortex,” study author Karen Bonuck told The Boston Globe, referring to the area of the brain that governs self-control and decision-making. Globe health blogger Deborah Kotz writes:
That certainly sounds scary to any parent who’s ever heard snoring drifting down the hallway at night, but Bonuck said there’s no cause for alarm.
First of all, a lot of kids snore or breathe funny when they sleep. In the study, 55 percent of parents reported that their children exhibited disordered breathing behaviors — and most of these children didn’t have any behavioral problems.
Parents should, though, discuss snoring or other breathing abnormalities during sleep with their child’s doctor. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors screen for sleep apnea in children and refer them on for exams with ear, nose and throat specialists if they suspect any problems. Surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids (clumps of immune tissue that lie at the back of the throat) is the most common treatment for those determined to have obstructed breathing, and some recent studies suggest that it can help improve behavioral issues such as hyperactivity in children with disordered sleep breathing.
Image: Sleeping child, via Shutterstock.
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