Not sleeping much is bad for our health. At any age. The lack of sleep in fact reduces the hormone leptin that stimulates the sense of satiety and reduces the accumulation of body fat. Beside the stress and worries of everyday life, one of the causes of lack of sleep is often the start of morning activities before 9 am. For example, school attendance prevents children from resting as often as they need to be more productive in their studies. What if students begin class just one hour later? We asked Dr Vincenzo Tullo, neurologist in charge of sleep medicine and headache expert at Humanitas.
Sleep, a necessity for mental and physical health
Often in the morning we are asked for a very great effort: to start the day immediately with many challenging tasks from the mental and physical point of view that take away precious time from sleep, a very important activity and often underestimated.
Today’s children, thanks also to excessive use of technology and overexposure to electronic devices, rest less and less per night. Erroneously, sleep is seen almost as an inconvenient moment that hinders our lives. But when we experience its deprivation, the consequences can be irreversible on our health.
The sleep disorders and the impact on the brain
According to the statistics, 25% of children from the developed countries (those equipped with technology) suffer from sleep disorders even under the age of 5, while after the age of 6 and up to adolescence the percentage is around 10-12%. According to science, sleep problems during the formative years can cause permanent changes in the brain structure, as well as the fact that a sleep reduced to a minimum in the number of hours leads to an increase in irritability and hyperactivity and to a decrease in learning and to an increased risk of obesity and depression.
“Compared to a hundred years ago – explains a recent study by the University of Colorado – it was found that children sleep an average of 2 hours less per night”.
The therapy applied to children and adolescents
Normally, in the case of such small patients, doctors prefer to act on sleep hygiene: in fact, there is no hypnotic drug for the child. Where behavioural therapy fails, antidepressants such as in adults or antihistamines are used.
In 2014, in order to avoid the increase of these cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that the secondary and high schools should start no earlier than 8.30 in the morning and in several schools, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, experiments were started on classes with delayed lessons.
An American study also calculated the economic impact of ringing the bell later: it was estimated that the national economy would earn $83 billion within a decade, due to improved school performance and reduced car accident rates.