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June 19, 2014

New Studies Indicate that Kids Need More Sleep

parenting NPR (National Public Radio) printed an article highlighting two studies regarding a correlation between sleep deprivation and depression in teens: “The teenage years are a tumultuous time, with about 11 percent developing depression by age 18. Lack of sleep may increase teenagers’ risk of depression, two studies say.” The two studies are from University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Summer camp helps kids disconnect from the internet and electronics
UT’s lead author in the study, Robert Roberts, says that “Kids should go to bed [and wake up] at a regular time. They should have a dark room if possible — that means no TV, no games, no phones.” Swedish researchers also found that lack of sleep and excessive media use were associated with teenage mental health problems. Rather than reading, playing cards, or simply going to bed earlier, teens surf the internet, listen to music on their iPods, watch videos and chat on their iPads. These forms of entertainment, while seemingly relaxing, actually require a higher level of brain activity than non-screen-based alternatives.

Many camps have strict regulations on personal electronic devices so that kids will engage with their immediate communities rather than their virtual ones. So even though summer camps have demanding hours and packed agendas, kids will actually obtain greater amounts of rest than they would at home. Couple this with the nourishment of nature, fun new social groups, and enjoyable activities, and it becomes quite clear why camp is seen as such a fulfilling and deeply healing way to spend the summer.

Get kids focused on a different set of priorities during summer camp
The article notes that as kids get older, high school homework gets harder and kids take on jobs and more active social lives. Then, “‘when you throw in all the video games and iPods and all the phones,’ Roberts says, sleep starts to become less of a priority.’” Going away for a few weeks during the summer, all of these priorities fall away and kids can remember how to be free from the responsibilities and regiments of the normal year. No computers, no jobs, no reports; just the kids and the trees…and maybe a quick run-through of survival tactics before a river rapids run. This powerful shift lets kids be kids and puts them back on track for stronger and more stable mental health.