The Science of Lost Sleep in Teens

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Teens and Sleeping

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 insufficient sleep.

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.

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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.

In a study published in the November 2005 issue of the journal Sleep, Carskadon found that the "sleep pressure" rate

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