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Can tech get teens out of bed earlier?

4 years ago writer Parenting + Technology London, UK

If you consider opening the blinds on the poor kids ‘technology’, the answer is yes, technology can get teenagers out of bed in the morning. The key is plain old daylight. Or - if you insist - there is a gizmo.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 70% of school children are sleep-deprived, which has been linked with depression, behavior problems, and bad grades.

Teens are not like real people. They must all be up at approximately the same time to get to school. At the same time, puberty brings a 1.5-hour delay in the ‘sleep’ hormone melatonin Add to that peer pressure to use the computer (the light from that can add 1.5 to two hours of wakefulness) and you have a buzzed person hours from a sensible bedtime.

Interviewed by, Mariana Figueiro, PhD, associate professor and director of the Lighting Research Center’s Light and Health Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, says when the youngster does sleep, chances are teens will awake with a lower Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR), meaning they will be less alert than an adult.

Her team measured CAR in 18 kids, 12 to 17, who stayed awake until 1:30 AM and were awakened at 6 AM. Subjects who were exposed to short wavelength blue light - found in abundance as the day dawns - had a higher CAR than kids kept in dim light after awakening.

Teens scream like a scalded vampire when the blinds are opened, but this is the easiest way to introduce the blue light. ‘Feed them breakfast next to a window or on the patio,’ suggests Figueiro. The light must be introduced in the half hour to an hour of awakening to jumpstart alertness.

If it’s dark when your child gets up, you may need to look into a light box, which cost $200 to $300. You can also build blue light goggles with LED displays, Figueiro adds. Maybe this would be a good project to co-opt the kid into bedtime sanity.

By Star Lawrence

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