Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Melatonin is not only helpful to maintain healthy biorhythms but it is a sleep aid and also, in high dosages, a powerful anti-cancer hormone. Looking at light LOWERS melatonin levels. So kids or college students who stare at light screens right up until the minute they brush their teeth and go to bed have NO melatonin and therefore have trouble with sleep and create an increased risk of cancer. Stop looking at screens at least 3 hours before bedtime. Indirect light from a light bulb shining on a written page is less bothersome but best to look into the eyes fo parent reading a good night story or in the eyes of a friends or partner in conversation reviewing with appreciation the day that has passed.
Three times as many children under 14 are being admitted into hospital with sleeping disorders than ten years ago as technology keeps many awake at night.
Households where both parents work are also pushing bedtimes later, with a lack of sleep raising fears of poor school performance and later life health woes.
It puts children at greater risk of developing mental health issues, catching viruses and becoming obese, according to past research. Studies have also linked a lack of sleep to low levels of emotional control.
Specialists fear the problem could worsen unless it is addressed now, and believe moves should be made to tackle it on the public health agenda.
Dr Catherine Hill, associate professor at the University of Southampton and consultant at Southampton Children’s Hospital, told the BBC ahead of a Panorama Documentary on the topic: “If we continue to ignore emerging research evidence about the importance of sleep to health, we’re potentially storing up problems for the NHS in future.”
According to the Children’s Sleep Charity, some 30 per cent of children will suffer with sleep issues during their childhood, costing the NHS millions of pounds in appointments.
Instead, changing bedtime routines, such as leaving phones and tablets out of bedrooms, could provide a solution.
Founder Vicki Dawson said: “We have been inundated with requests for support from families of children across the country, we can receive up to 200 emails every day.
“When families are sleep deprived it can lead them into crisis.”
The new figures obtained from NHS data also revealed prescriptions for common sleep medication melatonin are rising tenfold for children and adults under 55 over the same period. It is normally a naturally produced hormone that makes us sleepy.
One aspect thought to be interfering with children’s sleep is the blue light emitted by smartphones and tables, which reduces the natural production of melatonin.
Later bedtimes in busy working households, and drinks high in sugar and caffeine are also thought to be worsening sleep deprivation.
More than 8,000 children under 14 were admitted into hospital in 2016 with a primary diagnosis of sleep disorder – up from below 3,000 in 2006. The number has steadily increased year-on-year for nearly two decades.
Figures also show the number of prescriptions in England for melatonin rose to nearly 600,000 in 2015.