Mindfulness Techniques Dramatically Improve Kids’ Sleep in Study

Mindfulness Training Improves Kids Sleep

A new study shows that training children in mindfulness techniques can dramatically improve their sleep.

Recent statistics suggest we are in the midst of an epidemic of poor sleep, and children are especially vulnerable to the consequences.

Dr. Christina Chick is a developmental psychologist who recently headed a study at Stanford University that looked at a mindfulness-based solution to sleep issues in children.

“Kids, depending on the age, but between elementary school and junior high, should really be getting nine to 11 hours of sleep per night,” Chick said. “The best data that we have suggests that most kids on average are getting seven hours. So, if you think about that, on average, at least two hours loss night after night after night, that adds up to compound to a significant loss of the restorative functions of sleep.”

Research is continually uncovering the many vital functions that only happen during sleep and are essential for overall health, particularly in children. 

“We think of sleep as a passive process, and in fact, it’s a very active one,” Chick said. “So, when your body goes to sleep, your brain in many ways goes to work. Part of that work is consolidating memories, so all of that wonderful learning that happens during the school day, but also social and emotional memory. Sleep is also when a lot of growing happens; if kids are losing out on two hours plus of sleep per night, that starts to add up to a disadvantage over time.”

The consequences of losing sleep in childhood can be dire.

“So, in the short term, emotion regulation suffers, concentration suffers, memory suffers,” Chick said. “In the long-term, we see a host of physical and mental health risks that come from sustained insufficient sleep. Nearly every psychiatric disorder is associated in some way with altered sleep.”

As there is a direct relationship between stress and poor sleep, Chick and her colleagues designed a study that aimed to teach kids skills they could use to help regulate their nervous systems’ response to stress, ideally improving their sleep.

“So, we partnered with a local school district and we delivered a curriculum during the kids’ normal physical education class (PE),” Chick said. “So, twice a week for a period of two years, we taught them a curriculum, that was developed by Pure Edge — there were yoga-inspired movement exercises, (and) there were also breathing exercises.”

Researchers studied participants’ nightly sleep using a method called polysomnography, the findings were overwhelmingly positive.

“We found that the kids in the control group decreased their sleep on average by one hour per night,” Chick said. “In contrast, the kids who received the curriculum actually increased their sleep by an average of over an hour per night, over the two-year period of the study. So, to not only not lose sleep, but gain sleep during this period, was really remarkable. By learning to regulate their nervous system, the kids were putting their bodies into a state that was more conducive to falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting restorative rest.”

Chick is very hopeful that these findings will lead the way for the widespread adoption of such school-based programs. She also urges parents to model and incorporate stress-reduction techniques, such as breathing breaks into their daily lives.

“So, even though we think of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation as adult tools, not only can kids use them, but they can do so effectively and they like it,” she said.

Investors Urge Apple To Curb Childhood Social Media Addiction

the smart generation

In an age where technology is becoming intrinsically connected to every aspect of our lives, some are starting to grow concerned about the increasingly younger age at which we introduce our children to smart phones and gadgets – including two of Apple’s biggest investors.

In a Jan. 6 letter sent to Apple from investors Jana Partners and The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the shareholders expressed concern over childhood addiction to social media and electronic devices. The two groups urged Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help ensure that kids use the company’s products in an “optimal manner.”

The letter acknowledged the pervasiveness of Apple products among children and teenagers, and the unintentional negative consequences that may be coming from the omnipresence of social media in young people’s lives.

 

the smart generation

 

The letter likely comes in response to viral videos of a former Facebook vice president who has been vociferous in his regret for the role he played perpetuating social media’s impact on our society. A number of media outlets have posted videos of Chamath Palihapitiya, former VP for user growth at Facebook, for his comments stating that social media is destroying society with dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Jana Partners LLC, a hedge fund started by activist investor Barry Rosenstein, touts itself as being an actively engaged shareholder that specializes in event-driven investing. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System is the largest educator-only pension fund in the world that represents nearly a million public school educators. Together the two investors own a $2 billion stake in Apple.

The investors’ letter to Apple cited a number of statistics showing the negative impact that the role of social media and technology has on youth. It says that in the past 3 to 5 years since personal technology has entered the classroom, 90 percent of teachers said the number of students with emotional challenges has increased and 86 percent of teachers said that the number of students with social challenges has increased.

The letter also pointed to increased rates of depression, sleep deprivation, and suicide risk factors in children and teenagers spending significant time on social media and electronic devices.

In response, Apple has promised to introduce new features and tools to help parents and teachers curb the extensive use and addiction to these technologies.

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