Lack of sleep can be blamed on electronics

Most of us have finally adjusted to the time change, but still, on a whole, we're not getting enough sleep.  A resent study from the National Sleep Foundation found most American kids in particular are not getting the amount of sleep they need.  The problem is their electronics.

Before we were able to plug in and turn on our gadgets sleep was simple thanks to our body's own natural sleep aid melatonin.  "We didn't have any sleep problems when we did not have our electronics and did not have sleep problems when we didn't have electricity," said Dr. Ana-Maria Temple, a pediatrician from Charlotte Pediatrics.

Dr. Temple explains how the melatonin works, "Our bodies naturally make melatonin so what happens when the sun sets our melatonin rises that's the natural progression, and we get sleepy and we go to bed."

But it's what kids are going to bed with that is interrupting their natural sleep patterns. In the NSF study three out of four American kids have at least one electronic device in their bedroom, and most are on that device very close to bed time.

"What's happening is the LED light is going through the eyes and to the brain and tells the brain to no make melatonin because the brain thinks it's daylight outside.  So your melatonin levels instead of rising they stay low," according to Dr. Temple.

But just turning off the device isn't enough.  Dr. Temple says when kids have been staring at their devices and hop into bed, they're waiting for sleep...but those melatonin levels only start to rise after a good bit of time, but don't rise to the levels we need.   A lack of sleep means a multitude of issues for kids.

"They're hyper, they can't focus, they can't concentrate, they're not listening to their teachers, they're irritable, they're frustrated and anxious," Dr. Temple told me.

She believes the rise in childhood obesity may be, in part, blamed on a lack of sleep.  "When you're not getting enough sleep you actually produce a hormone that makes you hungrier throughout the day so you end up eating more."

So make sure you have a firm rule to turn off all devices at least two hours before bed.  And parents need to follow suit.  If kids see parents on their devices, they're more likely to break the rule and hop on theirs.