Despite years of warnings about the risks of insufficient sleep — including poor school performance, obesity and, as presented in June at an annual meeting of sleep researchers, links to depression — teens and their parents say adolescent exhaustion remains a fact of life.
And the best parents can do is help balance their teens’ need for sleep with their need to keep up with today’s technology, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.
Scientists studying teen sleep deprivation have several theories about why exposure to technology cuts into rest.
Some suggest that the media simply take the place of sleep and exercise. Others point to the arousing content of TV, video games and music as a sleep deterrent. Increased caffeine use could be a factor. And a more controversial hypothesis is that bright lights from the screens trick teenage bodies into delaying the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps trigger sleep at night.
Still others believe it is the use of multiple technological devices at once that keeps teens alert past bedtime.
At his research clinic in Dallas, psychologist Jasper Smits is working on an unorthodox treatment for anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. It is not yet widely accepted, but his treatment is free and has no side effects, according to a story in Time Magazine.
Compare that with antidepressant drugs, which cost Americans $10 billion each year and have many common side effects: sleep disturbances, nausea, tremors, changes in body weight.
This intriguing new treatment? Exercise.
That physical activity is crucial to good health — both mental and physical — is nothing new. As early as the 1970s and ’80s, observational studies showed that Americans who exercised were not only less likely to be depressed than those who did not but also less likely to become depressed in the future.
In 1999, Duke University researchers demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial that depressed adults who participated in an aerobic-exercise plan improved as much as those treated with sertraline, the drug that, marketed as Zoloft, was earning Pfizer more than $3 billion annually before its patent expired in 2006.
Though almost everyone uses the internet to conduct business, connect with people, pay bills or find information, the people who spend hours each day aimlessly surfing the net appear more likely to be depressed.
Psychologists at the University of Leeds in Britain evaluated the internet use and depression levels of 1,319 people ages 16 to 51. Of the group, 18 people were classified as internet-addicted, according to the Chicago Tribune. When the 18 people were compared with 18 similar people who were not internet-addicted, the researchers saw striking differences in depression.
The 18 non-addicted people were not depressed while the 18 internet-addicted people were classified, as a group, as moderately to severely depressed.
The addicted people tended to use the internet more for sexual gratification, gaming and chat rooms, compared with the non-addicts.
The authors of the paper, published in the journal Psychopathology, concluded that these people were replacing real-life socializing with internet surfing