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Why boarding school kids get better sleep

Over the past 20 years, children's shut-eye has reduced dramatically.

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Boarding school kids get the best night's sleep... because of strict lights out time, according to new research.

They sleep 40 minutes longer. Youngsters could get almost five hours extra a week if they all followed the same rules - with no phone access in bed.

Lead author Professor Kurt Lushington said: "It is a naturalistic experiment showing the secret to good sleep in teenagers is quite simple - a regular routine and no mobile devices at night."

Over the past 20 years, children's shut-eye has reduced dramatically. Only half regularly get more than seven hours. The recommended amount is eight to ten.

Biggest culprits are smartphones and tablets. They emitted blue light also wakes the brain - making it harder to drop off.

The phenomenon reduces mental health, academic performance and fuels behavioral problems.

An Australian team compared sleep patterns of 15 to 18 year olds at a high school in Adelaide.

The 59 boarders had to leave their phones in a kitchen area or on their desk before they retired - and turn their lights out by a set time based on age.

They slept an average 8 hours 26 minutes a night - compared to 7 hours 46 minutes achieved by their 250 peers.

Lushington, of the University of South Australia, told New Scientist: "I think this shows if you put these norms in place, kids will go along with them."

A survey by the World Health Organization found British teenagers are among the worst sleepers in Europe - with over four in ten struggling to get enough.

Child health expert Proffesor Asaduzzaman Khan recommends parents reach agreement on a phone curfew.

This is most likely to work if they do likewise and offer other entertainment - such as books.

Khan, of the University of Queensland, said: "It can be a real challenge and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

"But I think it is worth trying for the benefits to mental and physical health, attention, learning ability and academic performance that come with extra sleep."

Earlier this year a US study found sleep deprived teenagers consume an extra 4.5 pounds of sugar during a school year.

They gorge on sweets, cakes, chocolate and biscuits and guzzle fizzy drinks to boost energy levels.

Lack of sleep has been linked to the child obesity epidemic. It can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Lushington presented the results at a meeting of the Australasian Sleep Association in Brisbane.

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