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Your kid’s new favorite bed partner (10/28/10)

October 28, 2010

Who is she sleeping with now?

According to the recent Pew Memorial Trust Survey,  82% of 12-17 year olds sleep with or next to their cell phones.  That has many implications for health, transport, the economy and the way we will live (and love) in the future:

Results:  Biological

1. More texts, less sleep, less learning. Let’s do the numbers – the average texts sent and received per young teenagers is now about 110 a day, and nobody knows how high that will go – it was half that number three years before.  The more kids text, the less they sleep and rest.

That’s a big deal.  Teenagers need 9-9.5 hours to remember properly, whether it’s school or sports skills.  Most surveys at the recent APSS sleep meetings showed high school students getting 6.5-7.5 hours a night.

We know  many are sleeping through the first half of junior and high school.  And lack of night-time sleep means less long term memory, the brain “earnings” necessary for future productivity and profit.

2. Make way for diabesity.  With current projections, one in three Americans will be diabetic come 2050.  Adults who sleep six hours or less crave sugar and fat – and take in more.  So far, studies show kids getting less than nine hours sleep per night gain weight.  And the sleep interruptions of texting, or even thinking about or waiting for texts, will probably decrease deep sleep – perhaps a lot.  Deep sleep is when we produce growth hormone, needed to sculpt muscles and grow tissues, including the brain.

Will kids get shorter as well as fatter?

3. Deranged body clocks – even small amounts of light turn off melatonin, the hormone of normal darkness.  And the bright light of cell phones won’t just knock off melatonin, it may well shift biological clocks later, making kids want to go to bed and get up even later than they do now.  Biologically, teenagers go to bed later than any other group already.

4. I sing the body electric – Walt Whitman didn’t know that every human cell is a major electrical generator, or that cellular information often moves through electrical channels.  Yet nobody really knows the long term effects of turned-on cell phones next to or attached to brain and body  24 hours a day – for years.  So far the population studies are not scary, but they’re usually looking for brain tumors – and there are many other possible health effects, including some we probably don’t yet imagine.

Results: Social

5. Transport will never be the same.  Perhaps half of kids admit to texting while driving – truckers who do that increase accidents 23 fold. If kids text in bed, in class, while walking next to the kids they’re texting and under the dining room table as their parents try to talk to them, they won’t stop when they get behind the wheel.

Plus it’s hard to tell whether someone is texting while driving, making enforcement difficult.  People can and will say they were just talking on their cell phone when the officer asks for your registration.

Expect more wrecks from endless texts.

6. The future of porn is here. It’s difficult to get a full idea of the total porn economy, but estimates are European cell phone porn has reached $3 billion a year – and should keep climbing.

Numbers are less in the US, where IT suppliers have tried to avoid porn purveyors, particularly Apple, which may be noting the size of the IT education market.

Yet the future will probably prove different.  In admittedly less than perfect surveys in 2009, a third of teens said they sexted (texted sexual content). Some Australian surveys find that perhaps 80% of year ten  (tenth grade) students are sexting.

What better time for the porn industry to send their product than when clients are in bed?  And the kids are already doing it – themselves.

7. Preparing for a cyborg future. Humans beings have a wonderful internal design, vastly more interesting that machines – and we regenerate ourselves.  The proteins pumping your blood last 60-90 minutes before they’re pulped and recycled, and your gut and heart are essentially remade in a few days.  Try getting your car engine to replace itself in 3 days.

Much of our biological regeneration takes place during rest, including sleep.  But now personal electronic devices operate 24 hours – effectively making many kids into round the clock shiftworkers.

That means A. For many rest is not a waste a time but the enemy – time away from the desired non-stop social connections teenagers get through the net.  Quiet, contemplative time, where people actually think, might get less valued in the future.  B. Sustained attention, needed for sustained achievement, may  take a real beating.  Don’t rest and you won’t rebuild right. C. Kids will imagine 4 PM is not much different from 4 AM – but everything about human performance changes through the time of day, from drug effects to how well you remember – with lesser performance the possible result.

Bottom Line

Unrested kids become unrested adults.  They face higher heart disease, stroke, and depression rates.  Their increasing weight and upended insulin metabolism will  help bankrupt an already near-bankrupt health care system.  Driving may never be the same – even with sophisticated AI driving programs.

And many basic pleasures of life will also change.  When attention is short, people tired and cranky, the flow experiences of life that often lead to peak pleasure and creativity may become less frequent.

We shouldn’t let that happen.  Take a tip from the older generation – turn off the electronics when you go to bed, and plug in your cell phone for another day.

You need rest to answer all those messages tomorrow.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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