Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Drop the remote and step away from the black box.

Here's a recent article from the Healthcare Advisory Board:

Teens who sleep in during weekend face Monday "jetlag" 06/26/2007
Teenagers who sleep longer on weekends to make up for missed sleep during the week actually reset their internal clocks, leading to symptoms reminiscent of jetlag come Monday morning, according to research presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Minneapolis. Noting that teenagers often restrict their sleep during the week to complete homework and get up early for class, Brown University researchers analyzed how 15- and 16-year-olds' sleep patterns impact their classroom performance. The researchers found thatsleeping in on weekends "pushes back the brain's cue to be awake on Monday morning for school," leading to grogginess and "a mismatch between the internal clock and sleep behavior." Although experts recommend that teenagers get at least nine hours of sleep nightly, Reuters notes that achieving such a full night's rest "may be easier said than done" (Reuters, 6/13).

Now, we all have our when-I-was-a-kid stories, but here's one I can say without exaggerating. As a teenager, I got at least 8 hours of sleep per night. How, pray tell? Oh, I'm so glad you asked.

We didn't have TV.

Well, let me back up. We had a TV, but we only had an aerial antenna that you had to go outside and manually turn it if you wanted to get channels from a different city. You pointed it one way to get NBC, ABC, CBS, and PBS from Atlanta, another way to get the same channels from Columbus, and yet another way to get one of several Alabama PBS stations. As a kid, watching "The A-Team" or "Knight Rider" tooks some work; you really had to want to watch to put on shoes and go fix the antenna. It got to the point that watching TV was too much work for not a very good picture, so I never really formed the habit. Fast forward to high school, where we've moved into a larger home closer to school, but Dad still only hooked up an arial antenna to the TV. My stepsiblings ached over trying to get the picture right while I sat at my desk upstairs, slamming through solving trigonometry problems, reading Madame Bovary, and conjugating French verbs. My friends might have known more about Beverly Hills 90210 than I did, but I went to Georgia Tech with all but $300 a quarter of my expenses paid due to academic scholarships.

Kids might be "restricting" their sleep for "homework" and getting up early for class, but I can almost guaran-damn-tee you that they're getting their tube time (and video game time) every night, and that cuts into sleep time. I went to high school in the early- to mid-1990s, and I know my friends were awake into the late night;I'd be surprised if teens today were that much different. Myself, I've realized lately that having a TV on and even being in the same room with it on keeps me artificially awake and energized. Light from the sun disappears around 9pm here in Denver in the summer, and when I'm allowed to read in a room away from the TV, I get snoozy right about the time the sunlight disappears. If the TV is playing a music/radio station at a low volume, I can calm down as if I'm in the other room meditating or doing restorative yoga, but otherwise I can't be int he same room with it for at least 30 minutes before bed.

Yeah, I know it's easy to bash TV for a number of society's ills, but it does take up a lot more of our time than it ought to. I saw a bumper sticker this afternoon that said, "Fight prime time--read a book." Thanks, I think I will.


BaxtersMum said...

we were the same, till my high school years... then cable showed up in the back woods of alabama

but I was one of those kids who could do homework and study in front of the TV and never had a problem. It drove my dad NUTs. I told him that if my grades fell he could do something, but if I could manage both then he really couldn't complain.

And I was in bed by 10:30 or 11 every night, and got up at 7, left the house at 7:45, and was fine.

Though I really am a 9 hr sleeper.

Charlotte said...

I was kind of a freak in high school (I still am). I can do my homework in almost any environment, including in front of the TV. I actually prefer doing my homework with some kind of background noise, it helps me concentrate better. I never had a problem with TV...there are only a few TV shows I like to watch, so it's not like I miss it a lot when I don't watch it.

faded said...

Looking at the study about sleep time, I do not see a problem. Teenagers are flexible and can do this sort of thing without ill effects. I thing the sleep study guys are trying to create a problem where none exists.

I must confess that most television leaves me cold for two reasons. One, most of it DUMB in a big way and therefor not worth the time.

Two, when I was a kid my mother made it very clear that she would rather watch TV than talk to me. If there was a problem or something that need to be dealt with, she would always begrudge me the time and make her displeasure about the interruption apparent.