If the findings hold up, they could eventually influence school system schedules, Daniels said. Schools now start later in the morning for younger students and earlier for teenagers, he said. "But the changes in the diurnal patterns for adolescents make it harder for them to get up in the morning and to get to sleep at night. If we reorganize the day-night schedule for adolescents, that could make life easier for them and their parents," he added.
Dr. Richard D. Simon Jr., medical director of the Kathryn Severyns Dement Sleep Disorders Center in Walla Walla, Wash., said the study findings make biological sense.
"We do know that in adults, poor sleep and a diminished amount of sleep are associated with obesity and hormone intolerance," Simon said. "Changes occur in the sympathetic nervous system. Also, fragmentary sleep activates inflammatory pathways."
All the experts agreed that better sleep for teens could be achieved by what Redline called "optimizing sleep hygiene, following regular sleep habits, turning the light off approximately the same time every night, keeping the bedroom quieter, and avoiding substances that may disturb sleep, such as caffeine."
"Kids as well as adults need to be allowed to sleep enough," Simon said. "We say eight hours of sleep a night, but it takes an hour to wind down. It's very, very hard to allow enough time to sleep."
For tips on getting more and better sleep, visit the University of Maryland Medical Center.
SOURCES: Susan Redline, M.D., director, Case Western Reserve University Hospitals Sleep Center, Cleveland; Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief, the Children's
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