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Overly tired teen? Sleepiness may signal serious health problem

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 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.

"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.


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Contact: Wendy Lawton
Wendy_Lawton@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
6-Jun-2005


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