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Sleepless on the Northern Beaches

Think Local

A round 80 percent of Australia teenagers aren't getting the vital eight to 10 hours sleep a night, according to a ational study by cyber security group Family Zone. 
It's not unusual to send and receive at least 10 texts a night for a third of the 1,000 Australian teenagers surveyed, and three quarters have no parental controls on their technological devices. 
Countless scientific studies have proven this potent cocktail of influences result in kids falling asleep at school or university, reduced school attendance, underperforming scholastically, suffering anxiety and depression and entering into more risk-taking behaviours. 
The impact on their education is profound. 

"A recent UNICEF report rated Australia 39 out of 41 countries in educational attainments," says Dr Chris Seton, adolescent sleep physician from Sydney's Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. 
"There's a huge connection between correct sleep levels and academic performance. After a decent sleep, when the teacher says something, your short-term memory helps you recall it a few hours later. 
"For that information to be retained, it needs to move to your long-term memory and that only happens with deep REM sleep. If you don't get enough, that day's learning is gone." 

St Augustine's College head of school, Matthew Hutchison, feels very strongly about the growing issue of sleep deprivation in teens. 
"Many of our boys are overstimulated," he says. "They live in an exhausting culture which doesn't let them rest, and tiredness becomes a way of life. It keeps them hyped up - their brain is noisy and their hearts are cluttered. 
"It doesn't help that some are working in pizza shops until 11 pm, and some are drinking copious amounts of caffeine." 
Sleep plays many different functions, including keeping our immune system and hormones balanced, cleansing the toxins from the brain, and affecting learning and memory. If there is an absence of sleep, all these things are heavily impacted. 
"It's important that good routines around going to bed and going to sleep are established early," says Jann Robinson, the principal of St Luke's Grammar School. 
"For example, ensuring the impact of screens is minimised so sleep is not disrupted." 
Sleep studies have also found that teens have a biological tendency to go to sleep as much as two hours later than younger kids, so waking them two hours before their bodies are ready means they're clocking up a huge sleep debt. 
Therefore, it's little wonder Dr Seton, Mrs Robinson and Mr Hutchison are all advocates of parents taking more control of devices.

"If I was to give one bit of recommendation to parents, it would be lights out by 10.30pm as a rule of thumb, make sure all devices are downstairs - and it shouldn't be a World War III battle for that," Mr Hutchison says. 
"You pick your battles and give up on things, but if you're going to draw the line on anything, make it be that. We have a responsibility to ensure our children rest - not keep them hyped and their mind cluttered." 
Cromer father-of-two Ralph Guardala insists parents need to get tougher. 
"Families are getting more fragmented because of the social aspects of multimedia and you lose contact with the kids," he believes. 
"Teens are in enormous groups of social chat, such as groups for sport, friend groups and Xbox - one of them has been messaging a girl in Florida caught up in Hurricane Irma, and the messages were beeping all night with people wanting updates. 
"In our house, they must adhere to the rules, and leave their devices in the kitchen to charge overnight. 
"We let them have their phones in their rooms on Friday and Saturday night - and it shows, as they're shattered on Saturday and Sunday mornings." 
Mr Guardala's daughter Madeline, 15, who attends Mater Maria Catholic College, endured years of sleepless nights before she stopped having her phone in her bedroom at night time. 

"At its worst I was only getting a few hours' sleep a night" she reveals. "Social media was part of the issue and it definitely affected my grades." 
The Cromer teenager then requested her family ban mobile phones and iPads from the bedrooms at night and during family time. 
"Since then, we communicate more," she says. 
"I have a phone and an iPad and for about a month I've eschewed technology. I feel much better, like I've got more freedom and happiness. I spend more time with my family and get more things done." 

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