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Doctors Say We Should Let Students Sleep in Longer

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Here’s a scientific suggestion most kids will be pleased with: doctors say school should start later so students can sleep in.

In a new statement in the journal of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics says “chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm” for kids. Their pathological tiredness is so bad, it’s comparable to that in people suffering from actual sleep disorders. Indeed, more than 85% of America’s high school students are walking around with less than the recommended 8.5 hours of sleep on a day to day basis. And constantly having heavy eyelids can lead to snoozing when kids should be learning. Nearly 30% of students say they fall asleep during school every week, according to one poll by the National Sleep Foundation. For older kids, there’s an added danger of nodding off at the wheel. On top of all that, kids are turning to stimulants like coffee or taking prescription drugs to combat their exhaustion.

But believe it or not, most teens aren’t a bunch of lazy bones by choice. When we hit puberty, we become night owls thanks to a delayed release of melatonin, the chemical in our brains that controls our sleep cycles. As a result, our bodies want us to go to bed and wake up about two hours later than before. This can be a difficult adjustment for kids who don’t feel the pull of sleep until midnight and then have to rise at 6:00 in the morning to get to school an hour later, but that’s exactly what’s happening.

This is exactly why doctors are now urging schools to delay their start time until after 8:00 am to accommodate kids’ natural sleep cycles. Right now, only about 15% of all high schools start after 8, but a handful are heeding the doctors’ advice, and it’s paying off. Research published earlier this year from the University of Minnesota in St Paul showed that later start times improve grades, test scores, and lower teen car accidents by a dumbfounding 65 to 70 percent.

So just how late could start times get? “Anything is better than 8 am,” Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, told New Scientist. “Moving to 8:30 will make a difference, but a 10 o'clock start would be even better.”

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This Organization Wants Your Old Eclipse Glasses
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Johan Ordonez, Getty Images

On Monday, August 21, America hosted what may have been the most-viewed solar eclipse in history. While those of us in the United States are still processing the awesome sight, residents of South America and Asia are just starting to look forward to the next total eclipse in 2019—and anyone who still has their protective glasses on hand can help them prepare.

According to Gizmodo, Astronomers Without Borders is accepting donations of used eyewear following Monday’s event. Any glasses they collect will be redistributed to schools across Asia and South America where children can use them to view the world’s next total eclipse in safety.

Astronomers Without Borders is dedicated to making astronomy accessible to people around the world. For this most recent eclipse, they provided 100,000 free glasses to schools, youth community centers, and children's hospitals in the U.S. If you’re willing to contribute to their next effort, hold on to your specs for now—the group plans to the announce the address where you can send them in the near future. Donors who don't have the patience to wait for updates on the group's Facebook page can send glasses immediately to its corporate sponsor, Explore Scientific, at 1010 S. 48th Street, Springdale, Arizona 72762.

Not sure if your glasses are suitable for reuse? Here’s the criteria they should meet for sun-gazing.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Here's How to Tell If You Damaged Your Eyes Watching the Eclipse
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Amid the total solar eclipse craze, experts repeatedly warned spectators not to watch the rare phenomenon on August 21 with their naked eyes. But if you caught a peek sans glasses, pinhole projector, or protective filter, you may be wondering if your peepers were damaged. (After the sky show, "my eyes hurt" spiked as a Google search, so you’re not alone.)

While the sun doesn’t technically harm your eyes any more than usual during a solar eclipse, it can be easier to gaze at the glowing orb when the moon covers it. And looking directly at the sun—even briefly—can damage a spot in the retina called the fovea, which ensures clear central vision. This leads to a condition called solar retinopathy.

You won’t initially feel any pain if your eyes were damaged, as our retinas don’t have  pain receptors. But according to Live Science, symptoms of solar retinopathy can arise within hours (typically around 12 hours after sun exposure), and can include blurred or distorted vision, light sensitivity, a blind spot in one or both eyes, or changes in the way you see color (a condition called chromatopsia).

These symptoms can improve over several months to a year, but some people may experience lingering problems, like a small blind spot in their field of vision. Others may suffer permanent damage.

That said, if you only looked at the sun for a moment, you’re probably fine. “If you look at it for a second or two, nothing will happen," Jacob Chung, chief of ophthalmology at New Jersey's Englewood Hospital, told USA TODAY. "Five seconds, I'm not sure, but 10 seconds is probably too long, and 20 seconds is definitely too long."

However, if you did gaze at the sun for too long and you believe you may have damaged your eyes, get a professional opinion, stat. “Seeing an optometrist is faster than getting to see an ophthalmologist,” Ralph Chou, a professor emeritus of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, told NPR. “If there is damage, the optometrist would refer the individual to the ophthalmologist for further assessment and management in any case.”

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