Physicians who care for young adults are warned that computer games and caffeine may not be the only sources of teen sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea, depression and other medical disorders could be to blame, according to the report by Richard Millman, and other researchers at Brown University, published in Pediatrics.
For reasons that have to do with both biology and behavior, many young adults dont get the sleep they need. So our take-home message is that teens need more sleep, said lead author Richard Millman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Lifespan Hospitals, a Rhode Island.
Physicians also need to be on the alert, Millman said. While most teens are tired because they are sleep deprived, chronic drowsiness may, in some cases, be symptoms of an underlying sleep disorder.
The Pediatrics report is a first, merging a review of more than two decades of basic research with clinical advice for physicians. It represents a joint effort of the American Academy of Pediatrics ( AAP ) and the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research ( NCSDR ), part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute ( NHLBI ) within the National Institutes of Health.
A joint committee formed by the AAP and the NCSDR wrote the paper.
The report summarizes key research findings on teens, young adults and sleep.
The paper notes, for example, that adolescents aged 13 to 22 need nine to 10 hours of sleep each night. It also discusses the hormonal changes that conspire against them. When puberty hits, the bodys 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 nights 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.
Sleep deprivation is a major adolescent health issue, Millman said. But pediatricians and parents may see only fatigue and not a more dangerous medical condition.
But how can physicians tell the difference between a typically tired teen and one with a serious health problem ? A physical exam can point up large tonsils or other causes of sleep apnea. But Millman said that the most effective diagnostic tool is a rigorous pediatric sleep history. Physicians, he said, should ask patients about insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, disordered breathing and other problems. These questions can point up chronic medical or psychiatric conditions that require treatment.
Source: Brown University, 2005