Many Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Excessive usage of screen technologies–including video games and social media–is now known to be addictive and interfere with normal sleep patterns. This is particularly problematic for younger children whose brains are still undergoing the delicate–and essential–process of myelination. Myelin provides the insulation around neurons which allow for rapid transmission of electrical signals (ie. thoughts) and it is easily disrupted by the hyperactive arousal provided by electronic screens. Accordingly, parents should take proactive steps to limit the screen usage by their children and prevent screen/sleep interference. Unfortunately, “80% of today’s teens say they rarely or never sleep well” (Rosen, 2017). The newly proscribed clinical diagnosis of “problematic screen disorder” has all of the trappings of a national crisis for America’s youth.
When you don’t sleep enough, you can’t think well. We know this from experience, but now recent neuroscience has provided more answers as to why this is so. When you sleep, your brain is literally being cleansed of toxins which accumulate during the waking hours. The less sleep you receive, the less toxic material you are purging from your brain. Two of these proteins are A-beta and tau. According to research by David Holtzman, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, deficiencies in sleep quality and duration lead to excessive build-up of both A-beta and tau proteins in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid (Cunningham, 2019). Furthermore, excessive build-up of these proteins in the brain is now implicated in the onset and development of Alzheimer’s Disease (Cunningham, 2019).
In 100% of the active shooter mass murder attacks which I have studied, I have found what appears to be addiction to violent media–particularly violent video games. A common trait of addiction is the willingness of the one who is addicted to trade other life patterns in order to accommodate the addiction. This is the case with video game addicts–they will trade sleep, eating, even walking to the restroom–in order to avoid leaving the game. Some will wear diapers or keep jars next to the computer to avoid the short time away to use the restroom. In South Korea, marathon gaming has even resulted in the death of one video game addict. Moreover, screen addiction has become China’s number one public health crisis.
Inadequate sleep not only leads to physiological disease and psychosis, but it can be akin to gasoline thrown on the fire of violence.
Cunningham, A. (February 16, 2019). Lack of sleep again tied to Alzheimer’s: Levels of tau protein go up in people deprived of shut-eye. Science News Magazine 195 (3), 6.
Rosen, L. (October 2017). The distracted student mind–Enhancing its focus and attention. Kappan 99 (2), 12.