Evening Standard (UK) 13 April 08
Computer games and fast food have been blamed by doctors for a startling rise in the number of children being treated in hospital for sleep disorders. The problem is especially pronounced among young boys, with thousands now being treated every year. Experts say parents are at fault for failing to enforce strict bedtimes and allowing children to play computer games and watch TV in their rooms late at night. Eating too much sugary food is also blamed for preventing children from dropping off to sleep.
Newly released NHS figures show that the number of under-11s referred to hospital specialists for insomnia, sleep-walking and sleep-related breathing problems has rocketed by 26 per cent over the past five years. But the true numbers affected could be much higher because the figures reflect only those seeking medical help. Studies have linked poor sleep to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And lack of sleep harms children’s ability to learn at school.
…Professor Jim Horne of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, said that children aged five to eight are particularly vulnerable to sleep problems as a result of ‘electronic distractions’ because having a rigid bedtime routine is so important to them. He said computers and mobile phones in bedrooms could be contributing to the growing number of sleep problems. Prof Horne added: “Staying up late should be a special treat. Children who persistently go to bed late get into hyperactive states and learning becomes a problem at school the next day.