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Imagine you're in your school math class after staying up late doing homework, and the teacher calls on you to explain something complicated on the board.

Ah, there's that palm sweat everyone who's been through this is painfully familiar with.

As if woken abruptly from a dream — which, let's face it, might've been the case — you look up sheepishly at the teacher, then around at everyone else staring back at you. You squint desperately at the equation on the board, but it might as well be in some language you don't know. Maybe you try to answer it and make no sense or just sink in your seat and say, "I don't know." Either way, aside from feeling like a zombie, you're also probably left feeling pretty embarrassed.


No sleep plus math class equals this moment. Photo via iStock.

It might sound funny in hindsight, but these effects of sleep deprivation are seen all too often in schools all over the world.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 31% of kids aged 6 to 11 in America get eight hours of sleep or less on a weeknight. The recommended amount for their demographic is at least 9 hours. And the stats only get more troubling as kids get older. According to a recent study at San Diego State, 40% of teens actually get seven hours of sleep a night or less, and that percentage has risen dramatically in the last 10 years.

Obviously, regular sleep deprivation can negatively affect the body and mind of an adult, but it can be detrimental to a young person.

Photo via iStock.

That goes double for a young person from a low-income household. Just ask Reut Gruber, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Apart from being an expert in the genetics of sleep, she's a member of the World Sleep Society and focuses on how sleep deprivation impacts children's day-to-day lives.

Just like adults, children’s ability to get through the day is compromised when they don't get enough sleep, but in order to understand why that happens, we have to look at how the brain works.

"There are several parts of the brain that are dependent on sleep to finish their business," Gruber explains. "One part of the brain that's key is the prefrontal cortex. It's kind of like the engine, the machine that underlies executive function."

Everything we do throughout our day — planning, ignoring distractions, making decisions, setting goals, etc. — rely on the prefrontal cortex working efficiently. Unfortunately that's also one of the areas of the brain that's most sensitive to sleep deprivation.

The prefrontal cortex and the occipital intra-parietal sulcus. Photo via iStock.

When the prefrontal cortex is compromised by a lack of sleep, all the functions it oversees are affected. This includes our ability to regulate mood and emotions.

You know how moody you get when you're running on less sleep? Imagine that feeling as a kid exacerbated by school assignments, teachers, and your classmates pushing your buttons.

Now imagine you return home after a day of feeling sleep deprived to a cramped house where there's no structure and four kids sleeping in one room. Perhaps you live in a neighborhood where every few hours you're awoken by what might be gunshots outside. According to Gruber, these scenarios are all too common.

Can you see a vicious cycle developing?

While research on the relationship between socioeconomic status and sleep deprivation is limited, there have been studies that have found a correlation between children from lower-income households and more disrupted sleep. It makes sense when you consider the scenario above — if life at home is stressed by a lack of money, food, or safety, it's not surprising sleep patterns would be disrupted.  

Photo via iStock.

And when sleep deprivation is the norm for kids, they get used to functioning at lower levels, which in turn may affect their academic success and ability to regulate their emotions.

Obviously, breaking an unhealthy sleep pattern is easier said than done, especially for disadvantaged kids, but, according to Gruber, it is possible.

It all starts with creating a comfortable space for sleep. Making sure kids have a clean, soft place to sleep — like a bed with clean sheets and warm blankets can really help.

Also cozy pajamas can make a huge difference, which is why Westin Hotels & Resorts isturning their discarded bed linens into pajamas for children in need. It's not a perfect fix by any means, but it's a good start.

Next parents should prioritize the amount of sleep their kids need to function properly during the day. This is different for everyone, but kids on the whole need more sleep than adults (even if they don't think they do).

Once you've got a clear sense of amount, you have to keep it consistent. This consistency includes all the routines leading up to bedtime. After all, sleep, by definition is a rhythm.

Photo via iStock.

Gruber says a good way to do this is set a hard stop for kids in terms of evening work/play/social media time. Once their sleep time comes around, encourage them to put it all away, literally and metaphorically. It might be hard at first, but the benefits will pay off tenfold.

"Make a commitment to making a change [to your child's sleep routine]," Gruber says. "Once you do it, you feel so good, you don't want to go back."

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Lost seal turns himself into police station.

Animals can be just as cheeky as toddlers and their cheeky actions usually result in unexpected sass and raised eyebrows. A town in Massachusetts became the temporary home to a grey seal that the citizens nicknamed "Shoebert" after he was found in Shoe Pond in Beverly. If you're wondering how a seal wound up in the pond, you're not the only one. No one knows exactly how the savvy seal made his way to the pond but he hung out there for a few days somehow evading efforts to catch him so he could be relocated.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.