Sleep deprivation is hurting kids in more ways than you think.
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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 is turning 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."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.