The ABCs of ZZZs: What Every Parent Needs to Know About the Importance of Sleep in Kids and Teens

Friday, September 25, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Wayland High School Auditorium, 264 Old Connecticut Path, Wayland, MA 01778.

Judith OwensJoin our September Walden Forum Discussion

Guest Speaker: Judith Owens – MD, Director of Sleep Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Internationally Acclaimed, Award Winning Researcher, Author and Educator, to talk about the importance of sleep for your children and teenagers.

The evening will begin at 7 pm with Peter Lavenson and Cindy Lewis Oliver playing some great live tunes. After the discussion, please join us for coffee and sweet treats to meet and greet our speaker.

“If you knew that in your child’s school there was a toxic substance that reduced the capacity to learn, increased the chances of a car crash and made it likely that 20 years from now they would be obese and suffer from hypertension, you’d do everything possible to get rid of that substance and not worry about cost. Early start times are toxic.”

“There’s no question that later start times pose significant challenges and barriers, … but this is something within our control, something we can change to make a significant impact on the long-term health of children.”

The consequences of sleep deprivation during the teenage years are particularly serious. Teens spend a great portion of each day in school; however, they are unable to maximize the learning opportunities afforded by the education system, since sleep deprivation impairs their ability to be alert, pay attention, solve problems, cope with stress and retain information. Young people who do not get enough sleep night after night carry a significant risk for drowsy driving; emotional and behavioral problems such as irritability, depression, poor impulse control and violence; health complaints; tobacco and alcohol use; impaired cognitive function and decision-making; and lower overall performance in everything from academics to athletics.

There are a myriad of studies linking adolescent sleep deprivation with early school start times. These findings, without question support a change that would allow high school students to have a later start to their day.  The facts are:

  • Sleep is vital to teens well-being, as important as the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat. It can even help them eat better and manage the stress of being a teen
  • Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
  • Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns…they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.

Other experts say:

“Sleep is the most effective cognitive enhancer we have.”

– Russell Foster, Ph.D, F.RS. Professor of Circadian Neurosciences, Head of the Nuffield Laboratory.

“Later start times may be a cost-effective way to improve student outcomes for adolescents.”

– Scott Carrell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of California at Davis.

“Given the danger posed to young people from car accidents this is a strong reason in itself to change school start times.”

– John Cline, Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Yale.

Most professionals in sleep medicine now believe that teenagers require nine-plus hours of sleep each night, and the consequences of insufficient sleep can  extremely problematic.