More kids developing insomnia, delayed school start times could help and boost the economy

Posted at 7:59 AM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-12 12:10:23-04

Insomnia is a problem we often associate with adults, but doctors say more kids are becoming insomniacs and they blame technology. 

Doctors say screen time, checking cell phones and tablets before bed is perking up the part of our brain that controls vision and kids aren't falling asleep. 

Not enough sleep is resulting in behavioral and attention problems, and as a result, parents notice grades are starting slip.

The signs to look for: 

- Noisy breathing

- Respiratory pauses

- Increased restlessness

- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

If your child has an itchy nose, sneezes a lot, constantly picks their nose or have puffy eyes, it's the sign of another issue that's keeping them from getting good sleep.

"That's what we thought 20-30 years ago that lack of sleep, or sleep disturbances, would cause the puffy eyes. We actually know that puffy eyes are allergic shiners and that is the opposite relation. It's the allergic shiners that cause the sleep disturbances," said Dr. Walter Castro, a pulmonologist and pediatric sleep specialist for Banner Health. 

To improve sleep doctors suggest:

- Get kids treated for allergies

- Limit screen time before bed

- Develop a routine like showering in dim light, reading a real book; it helps signal the brain that it's time to sleep.

- More exercise

- High schoolers may need a melatonin prescription because hormones make them night owls

A new study from Rand Corporation finds pushing back the first bell at school could not only help students get the sleep they need but also add billions of dollars to the economy.

Based on an 8:30 a.m. start in 47 states, including Arizona, the study finds the first year returns start low because schools would have to invest in moving after school programs and maybe more buses as everyone would be on the same drop off schedule. 

It also projects a $9.3 billion surge in the first year. In 20-years the economy makes $83 billion which they figure comes from improved graduation rates leading to better jobs and fewer medical costs from sleep-related car crashes, obesity, and mental health.

Even local pediatric sleep specialists agree.

“The academy of sleep medicine is pushing to move the starting time of high school, which other countries in Europe already do, and hopefully we'll start that movement soon because we learned you become a night owl when you're an adolescent," said Dr. Castro.

Click here to check out the full results of the study.