Overly tired teen? Sleepiness may signal serious health problem

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Adolescents who are lethargic, cranky and forgetful may have a common ailment: chronic sleep deprivation. But some tired teens may actually have a medical condition such as depression, insomnia, narcolepsy or sleep apnea, warns a new report in Pediatrics.

"For reasons that have to do with both biology and behavior, many young adults don't get the sleep they need. So our take-home message is that teens need more sleep," said 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.

"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 within the National Institutes of Health.

A joint committee formed by the AAP and the NCSDR wrote the paper. This 10-member committee includes three other Brown Medical School faculty: Mary Carskadon, Ph.D., director of the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Research Laboratory; Judith Owens, M.D., director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children's Hospital; and Suzanne Riggs, M.D., director of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Hasbro Children's Hospital. Bradley and Hasbro are leading institutions for child and adolescent health care in New England and serve as teaching hospitals for Brown Medical School.

The report summarizes key research findings on teens, young adults and sleep.

The paper notes, for

Contact: Wendy Lawton
Brown University

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