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Lack of sleep is ‘epidemic’ amongst Canadian teens, here’s why it has doctors worried

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Every morning the bell rings at 8:10 a.m. at Smiths Falls District Collegiate, and herds of weary high-school students stumble into class like zombies.

“We’re always tired,” Grade 10 student Michelle Norlock says. “It’s hard, because you’re not focusing and you can’t really understand what the teacher is saying.”

“My first class, I just want to fall asleep and not really pay attention, because I’m exhausted from the night before,” echoes Grade 9 student Angelina Holmes.

Parents of any era know it’s often a struggle to coax a groggy teenager out of bed. But two Grade 10 students at SFDC in Smiths Falls, Ont., wondered if their peers are, in fact, chronically sleep deprived.

Elizabeth Horsey and Quin Atkinson asked more than 300 students about their sleeping habits for a recent science fair project. Their questions included a survey known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale that’s commonly used to detect sleep disorders.

It’s recommended that 13- to 18-year-olds get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society. Studies suggest more than half of Canadian teens get less than that. (Duncan McCue/CBC)

The duo found that students slept 7.67 hours on school nights, on average.

What surprised them was that more than a third of students would be classified by the Epworth test as having “excessive” daytime sleepiness, which, in some cases, warrants medical attention.

“Everybody is so stressed with all the work and they’re not getting enough sleep,” Atkinson says.

“They just have so much on their plate and they’re not getting enough time to restore their bodies.”

Indeed, national statistics show millions of Canadian adolescents don’t get enough shut-eye, which has experts warning of long-term health consequences — unless we start appreciating the importance of a good night’s sleep.

‘Functioning sub-optimally’

The recommended amount of sleep for 13- to 18-year-olds is eight to 10 hours per night, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Studies suggest more than half of Canadian teens get much less, about 6.5 to 7.5 hours per night, says Indra Narang, director of sleep medicine at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

“We are in an epidemic of sleep deprivation,” said Narang, who foresees cumulative effects that can have an impact on everything from health to work performance.

“In 20 years time, we’re going to see a whole generation of adults who are functioning sub-optimally.”

‘We are in an epidemic of sleep deprivation,’ says Indra Narang, director of sleep medicine at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, who foresees cumulative effects that can have an impact on everything from health to work performance. (Duncan McCue/CBC)

Teenagers naturally function differently than adults when it comes to bedtimes: they don’t run on the same inner clocks.

In early adolescence and puberty, teens experience a shift in their 24-hour biological cycles, known as circadian rhythms. This means peak production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin happens later in the evening for teenagers, from roughly 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Those hormonal changes have long turned many teens into “night owls,” but studies over the past few decades show the pervasiveness of sleeplessness is on the rise.

Reasons vary, from late-night use of electronics and hectic after-school schedules, to increased consumption of high-energy caffeine drinks. Some teens also have sleep disorders from being overweight.

“It’s not uncommon for me to see teenagers in my clinic who are telling me that on school nights they go to bed at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. — and get up at 7 a.m. to go to school,” Narang says.

“They’re struggling to get in to school for the allocated time. They are sleeping in school. They find it hard to do the homework.”

When teens don’t get enough ZZZZs, the health dangers range from obesity and diabetes, to depression and substance abuse. Narang says public health officials need to better understand the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation.

“What we don’t want to do is miss the opportunity to intervene now, rather than have to intervene [later in life] when they have cardiovascular disease or metabolic disease or strokes or, indeed, dementia.”

Later school start times?

One of the questions raised by Horsey and Atkinson’s science project is whether a later school start time would benefit students.

Some teens worry that delaying start times could have an impact on part-time jobs or after-school sports programs, but many interviewed for this story were enthusiastic about any opportunity to sleep in.

“If school was a bit later, I could get maybe five or six hours [of sleep] … which would greatly help in, like, getting better grades,” says Grade 12 student Haze Ketcheson, who sleeps on average four hours per night.

He might be onto something, and it’s about more than getting enough sleep to avoid dozing off in class and missing an important lesson.

Some teens at Smiths Falls District Collegiate say they worry that delaying school start times could have an impact on part-time jobs or after-school sports programs, but many interviewed for this story were enthusiastic about any opportunity to sleep longer in the morning. (Duncan McCue/CBC)

Stuart Fogel, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Sleep Research Laboratory, has been looking at what the brain does while we sleep. He’s interested in how each day’s experiences are moved from the hippocampus, a limited space where we store recent short-term memories, to the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s “hard drive” where we store important memories for long-term reference.

Fogel’s research indicates that sleep basically cleans up the hippocampus, leaving us ready to take in fresh data — and simultaneously helps convert short-term memories into long-term ones so we can recall them later.

“What’s intriguing is that sleep loss will have an impact on your ability to retain anything that you learn that’s new,” Fogel says.

Narang says studies of American high schools with delayed start times suggest it can lead not only to significantly increased attendance, but also better grades.

However, there can be a host of logistical challenges to changing school start times. In Smiths Falls, for example, where the student population is largely rural, budget restrictions on school bus services resulted in staggered start times at elementary and secondary schools that allow for buses to make two runs. High schools get the earlier start.

“We think they should push it to nine o’clock … all they have to do is switch our bus times with the elementary school kids,” Atkinson says.

In the meantime, Horsey and Atkinson’s school project on sleep nabbed a gold medal at the science fair, and it has been attracting plenty of interest from students and teachers.

It also caught the attention of Horsey’s mother Veronica, who happens to be chair of the school council.

“Unfortunately, most adults don’t even understand how sleep deprived we are,” says Veronica Horsey. “Can we just look at the bigger picture on how to help our teenagers get more rest?”

She’s now working with school administrators to find sleep solutions, including workshops to improve students’ bedtime routines and scheduling fewer early-morning tests.


More from CBC

Watch Duncan McCue’s story on how important sleep is to learning and forming memories:

Back in 2005, Canadians averaged about eight hours of sleep a night. By 2013, that dropped to seven. Now about 40 per cent of Canadians are dealing with some kind of sleep disorder. Something about sleep keeps our bodies and minds from falling apart. The lack of it has been linked to obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. Researchers are now discovering some fascinating things about how important sleep is to the way our brains store memories and learn things. 11:49

A neurologist answers questions from CBC’s audience about how sleep affects a person’s health and wellbeing.  12:42

Canadians aren’t getting as much sleep as we want, this much we know. In fact, almost 60 per cent of us say we aren’t getting the recommended eight hours a night. The National’s health panel talks about the impact of our daily habits on the quality of sleep we get, and answers some of your questions about sleep struggles and what can be done to get a more meaningful rest. 11:55


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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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