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Wednesday 29th March, 2006
Researchers suggest lack of sleep in teens can lead to a number
of physical and emotional impairments.
Providence, RI -- A new poll of teenagers across the US
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 (NSF), cite sleeping in class,
lack of energy to exercise, feelings of depression, and
driving while drowsy as only some of the consequences for
The poll data support previous work by three Rhode Island
researchers who are at the forefront of sleep research. Previous
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, PhD, with Bradley Hospital and Brown Medical
School, 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
directs the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Sleep
Laboratory and is a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at
Brown Medical School.
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.
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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 the 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, MD, 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 Medical School. Her latest book, "Take Charge of Your Child's
Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in
Children and Teens," is especially important in light of the fact
that 90% of the parents polled 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, MD, 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.
The result: A "profound negative effect" on mood, school
performance and cognitive function. Studies also show that young
people between 16 and 29 years of age were the most likely to be
involved in crashes caused by the driver falling asleep.
"Some of our kids are literally sleep-walking 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."
National Sleep Foundation (NSF).