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Teens and Sleep Poll a Wake-Up Call, Pediatric Sleep Experts Say
New poll data from the National Sleep Foundation shows that only one in five teen-agers gets a full night’s sleep, negatively affecting school performance, driving and mood. Researchers at Brown Medical School and affiliates Bradley Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital are national experts in pediatric sleep and call the results a “wake-up call” for parents.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A new poll of teen-agers across the United States finds that many of them are losing out on quality of life because of a lack of sleep. The results, announced today by the National Sleep Foundation, cite sleeping in class, lack of energy to exercise, feelings of depression, and driving while drowsy as only some of the consequences of insufficient sleep.
The poll data support previous work by three Rhode Island researchers who are at the forefront of sleep research. Studies from Brown Medical School and Lifespan affiliates Bradley Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital have found that adolescents are not getting enough sleep and suggest that this can lead to a number of physical and emotional impairments.
Mary A. Carskadon chaired the National Sleep Foundation poll taskforce and has been a leading authority on teen sleep for more than a decade. Her research on adolescent circadian rhythms indicates that the internal clocks of adolescents undergo maturational changes making them different from those of children or adults. Nevertheless, teens must adhere to increasingly earlier school start times that make it nearly impossible for them to get enough sleep.
“Our results show that the adage ‘early to bed, early to rise’ presents a real challenge for adolescents,” says Carskadon, who is a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School and directs the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Sleep Laboratory.
Carskadon’s work has been instrumental in influencing school start times across the country. Regionally, the North Kingstown School Department in Rhode Island, North Reading Public Schools in Massachusetts, and West Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut are considering school start time changes due, in part, to research on teens and sleep.
In a study published in the November 2005 issue of the journal Sleep, Carskadon found that the “sleep pressure” rate – the biological trigger that causes sleepiness – slows down in adolescence and is one more explanation for why teens can’t fall asleep until later at night. Carskadon’s newest finding indicates that, in addition to changes in their internal clocks, adolescents experience slower sleep pressure, which may contribute to an overall shift in teen sleep cycles to later hours.
Judy Owens, M.D., a national authority on children and sleep, is the director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Brown. Her latest book, Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Children and Teens, is particularly timely since the poll found that 90 percent of parents believed that their adolescents were getting enough sleep during the week.
“This poll sends a clear message to parents: Teens are tired,” says Owens. “Parents can help get a handle on the problem by eliminating sleep stealers such as caffeinated drinks in the fridge or a TV or computer in the teen’s bedroom as well as enforcing reasonable bed times.”
Last June, a major report in the journal Pediatrics merged a review of more than two decades of basic research with clinical advice for physicians. Rhode Island authors included Carskadon, Owens, and lead author, Richard Millman, M.D., professor of medicine at Brown Medical School and director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Lifespan Hospitals, a Rhode Island sleep research and treatment center that is one of the largest in the country.
The report indicated that adolescents aged 13 to 22 need nine to
10 hours of sleep each night. It also discussed the hormonal changes that
conspire against them. When puberty hits, the body’s production of
sleep-inducing melatonin is delayed, making an early bedtime biologically
impossible for most teens. At the same time, the report notes, external forces
such as after-school sports and jobs and early school start times put the
squeeze on a full night’s sleep.
“Some of our kids are literally sleepwalking through life, with some potentially serious consequences,” Millman said. “As clinicians and researchers, we know more now than ever about the biological and behavioral issues that prevent kids from getting enough sleep. But the National Sleep Foundation did something powerful: They asked teens themselves about their sleep. The results are startling and should be a wake-up call to any parent or pediatrician.”
About Brown Medical School
Brown Medical School is Rhode Island’s only school of medicine and the hub of the state’s academic medical enterprise. As part of an Ivy League university, the medical school attracts leaders in teaching and clinical care and, with its seven affiliated hospitals, brings in more than $120 million in external research funding each year. Brown Medical School’s Department of Community Health, ranked sixth in the nation by US News and World Report, offers comprehensive graduate programs in epidemiology, biostatistics as well as a Master of Public Health degree.
About Bradley Hospital
Founded in 1931, Bradley Hospital was the nation’s first psychiatric hospital operating exclusively for children. Today, it remains a premier medical institution devoted to the research and treatment of childhood psychiatric illnesses. Bradley Hospital, located in East Providence, R.I., is a teaching hospital for Brown Medical School and ranks in the top third of private hospitals receiving funding from the National Institutes of Health. Its research arm, the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center (BHCRC), brings together leading researchers in such topics as autism, colic, childhood sleep patterns, HIV prevention, infant development, obesity, eating disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and juvenile firesetting. Bradley is a private, not-for-profit hospital and operates the Bradley School, a fully certified special education school. Bradley is a member of the Lifespan health system.
About Hasbro Children’s Hospital
Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., is the pediatric division of Rhode Island Hospital, the largest teaching hospital of Brown Medical School. A private, not-for-profit hospital, Hasbro has been named as a top children’s hospital by Child magazine, ranking ninth in orthopedics. It is nationally recognized for its child protection program and Draw-A-Breath asthma and allergy initiative. It is also the home of the Injury Prevention Center, which aims to reduce accidental injuries in children. The hospital has pioneered numerous procedures and is at the forefront of fetal surgery, orthopedics and pediatric neurosurgery. Hasbro Children’s Hospital is a member of the Lifespan health system.