Study: Teen cell phone use at bedtime leads to insomnia, poor performance in school

HILLSBOROUGH CO., Fla. - Kids these days aren't getting enough sleep and are struggling with insomnia - that's according to a recent study that shows smartphones and tablets are making the problem worse. But school bell times are also making it dangerous.

Michael Tigg is a BUSY man - he's a father of six and says his middle son taught him a valuable lesson about smartphones and tablets. They're great - but a recent study shows they're perpetuating a problem that more kids are dealing with these days - insomnia. 

Doctors say a hormone called melatonin is what gets you to sleep and it's released through darkness. They say if you turn on a tablet or a phone, it's like turning on a bright light in your brain which can keep you awake.

"He would be falling asleep in class intermittently because of his use of his iPad or smartphone," said Tiggs. It's one reason he started taking the phones away at night.

"When we get home he puts his phone on the charger on the counter. He can’t take it in his room. That’s just for him to help him focus a bit better on his priorities," said Tiggs. He believes policing your children can help solve their issues with lack of sleep.

Not getting enough sleep can be dangerous - leading to car crashes, obesity and mental health issues.

"If you want our teenagers to be well rested, to be able to function, to have reduced depression," said Dr. Bobbi Hopkins, Johns Hopkins All Children's Sleep Center Medical Director, "...reduce risk-taking behavior, to be able to drive better and to be able to complete their tasks at school better - all of those things would be improved by just allowing them to get sleep that match their circadian rhythm."

Also known as their "body clock". Hillsborough County high school students start school at 7:30 - and COULD be starting earlier than that next year. 

The study says if middle and high schools nationwide started at 8:30 the economy would grow by $140 billion dollars in 20 years because of improved graduation rates - leading to better jobs.  Dr. Hopkins says sleep needs to be a priority and making a high school kid go to bed at 10 p.m., to get the right amount of sleep may be unrealistic.

The district says the new, earlier start times are TENTATIVE - the district has been offering parents ways to speak out about the changes if they wish - they have a bell schedule survey on its website. 

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