Sleepy heads tied to attention deficit

sleeping in pizza

This will come as no surprise to parents: teenagers who try to make up for lost sleep on the weekends do worse on attention tests in school, according to a study out of Korea.

Researchers say the results may indicate that "sleep debt" accumulated over the week strains the teens intellectual resource and ability to focus.

"It's like a bank - they are on constant, huge sleep overdraft," Dr. David Gozal, an expert in childhood sleep problems at the University of Chicago. "If this is the way you manage your credit card, you will be bankrupt very soon."

The average Korean teen that participated in the study got only five hours and 42 minutes of sleep on weekdays. During the weekend they tacked on an extra three hours each night. Those who slept more on the weekends, sleeping less on the weekdays, did worse on computerized attention tasks in class according to Dr. Seog Ju Kim of Gachon University of Medicine and Science.

Their research does not show a causal link, they eliminated other factors as a cause. Age, gender, depression or mental health, and snoring were eliminated as causes. Additionally, the number of hours of sleep during the week was not a determiner of lower performance. In other words, it was the kids who were sleep deprived during the weekdays and who tried to make up for it on the weekends who suffer. For those kids who naturally live on five hours of sleep a night, every night, their attention had no deficit.

To Gozal, this is one more piece of evidence that cutting back on sleep has a price. Even if they are spending extra time on homework, the end result is that their performance will be sacrificed.

High school age kids should sleep at least nine hours a night, every night, consistently to keep the brain working at optimal levels.

"In a society that is very driven by academic performance," Gozal said, "a child or adolescent that needs to catch up on sleep during the weekend is probably a child at risk."

Source: Archives of Pediatrcs & Adolescent Medicine, Reuters


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