Teenagers & Sleep


"Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Skipping sleep can be harmful — even deadly, particularly if you are behind the wheel. You can look bad, you may feel moody, and you perform poorly. Sleepiness can make it hard to get along with your family and friends and hurt your scores on school exams, on the court or on the field. Remember: A brain that is hungry for sleep will get it, even when you don’t expect it. For example, drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel cause more than 100,000 car crashes every year. When you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to have an accident, injury and/or illness."


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"Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and in some cases episodes of cataplexy (partial or total loss of muscle control, often triggered by a strong emotion such as laughter). Narcolepsy occurs equally in men and women and is thought to affect roughly 1 in 2,000 people. The symptoms appear in childhood or adolescence, but many people have symptoms of narcolepsy for years before getting a proper diagnosis.

People with narcolepsy feel very sleepy during the day and may involuntarily fall asleep during normal activities. In narcolepsy, the normal boundary between awake and asleep is blurred, so characteristics of sleeping can occur while a person is awake. For example, cataplexy is the muscle paralysis of REM sleep occurring during waking hours. It causes sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to a slack jaw, or weakness of the arms, legs, or trunk. People with narcolepsy can also experience dream-like hallucinations and paralysis as they are falling asleep or waking up, as well as disrupted nighttime sleep and vivid nightmares."

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Sleep for Young Athletes

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"For children who play on a travel sports team, sleep should be a top priority. Not only is ample shuteye important for physical and mental well-being, but getting a good night’s sleep can also improve a young athlete’s chances of doing well during the game. Sleep positively affects many areas of athletic performance, including speed, accuracy, and reaction time.

Ensuring that kids get enough sleep while traveling for a game may also decrease the chance that they get hurt on the court or field. In fact, children who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night are 1.7 times more likely to get injured while playing their sport, compared with those who get eight or more hours of sleep. Use these tips to keep your athlete feeling rested and healthy while on the road."

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Mouth Exercises to Fight Snoring


"Heavy snoring shouldn’t be ignored. It can sometimes signal a more serious problem. Excessive nighttime snorts and grunts can be a sign of sleep apnea , especially when the snoring is paired with frequent interrupted breathing that may sound like gasping or choking.Not only can the condition disturb your sleep—as well as your partner’s—but it can also lead to health complications such as heart trouble . So let your general practitioner know right away if you notice these symptoms.

Doctors often prescribe a therapy using a device called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for sleep apnea. The mask, which is worn while you sleep, blows air into the airways to keep them open so that breathing is uninterrupted and snoring is lessened."

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"Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When the body is overstimulated, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, such as epinephrine and adrenaline, making it difficult to wind down at the end of the day. The neurochemicals remain present in the brain and can interrupt your normal sleep cycle. The result can be insomnia, bad dreams, and daytime fatigue caused by sleep disturbance.

The following are common sleep problems following a trauma:

  • Flashbacks and troubling thoughts can make falling asleep difficult.
  • The victim might feel the need to maintain a high level of vigilance, which can make sleep difficult.
  • For those who experience violent situations, nighttime and darkness can, in and of themselves, bring about added anxiety and restlessness."

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"The pattern of waking during the day when it is light and sleeping at night when it is dark is a natural part of human life. Only recently have scientists begun to understand the alternating cycle of sleep and waking, and how it is related to daylight and darkness.

A key factor in how human sleep is regulated is exposure to light or to darkness. Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus. There, a special center called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) initiates signals to other parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake."


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Tips for Sleep Training!


"Babies need a lot of sleep. When they’re between four and 11 months old, they need 12 to 15 hours a day (nighttime sleep plus naps). And at a certain point, they can get a lot of those hours in consecutively at night. The key is sleep training.

Sleep training when babies are too young doesn't work—it usually takes babies about three to six months to develop the circadian rhythm that they’ll need to want to sleep at night and be awake during the day. But once that happens, babies can sleep nine to 12 hours at night. While each baby reacts a little differently to sleep training and there are varying methods, there are a few key points to keep in mind."

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It's time to unwind - stop the stress!


"You probably realize that stress can take a toll on the quality of your sleep —but you may not know exactly how or why. Basically, it’s because feeling stressed out increases your physiological and psychological arousal in ways that are incompatible with the state your body and mind need to enter relaxed, restorative sleep.

So if you can’t relax after a difficult day once you’ve slipped under the covers, good quality sleep is bound to be elusive. You’re likely to have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping soundly. The time you spend in the deep, restorative sleep ( stages 3 and 4 ) may be reduced, as well. Adding insult to frustration, if you sleep poorly at night, there’s a good chance that you’ll be more reactive to stress the next day."

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Trouble Sleeping When Traveling?

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"Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, adjusting to a new time zone can be tough. That’s because your circadian rhythm is at work! This internal clock, which helps inform your body when it’s time to go to bed or wake up, takes awhile to catch up when you travel to a different time zone. It sticks to your usual schedule, so if it’s nighttime back home, your body may still think it’s time to go to bed—even if it’s the middle of the afternoon where you’re vacationing.

Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule when you travel starts with limiting jet lag. The best way to help your body adjust to the new time zone is to work with the sun. Getting into the sunlight can help sync up your internal clock with the new time zone—but the time of day that you get outdoors is important. If you travel eastward, you’ll want to soak up the sun in the morning. But if you fly west to get to your destination, get outside later in the day or in the early evening if the sun is still out.

Even if you do experience jet lag, do your best to avoid napping once you arrive at your destination. If you can stay awake until 10:00pm local time, it will be easier for your body to adjust to the new time zone. (It may help to choose a flight that lands in the evening, so that you don’t have to force yourself to stay awake for too long.) Then, once you do go to bed, set yourself up for sleep success. Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, and keep the bedroom clear of cellphones or anything else that may disturb your sleep. When you wake up, you should be better adjusted to the new time zone."

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Are you traveling?

"Traveling to new places provides a chance to explore new cultures—and with that, local foods and beverages. But while there may be no better way to experience Rome than sipping an espresso at a sidewalk café, if you want to stay energized for the duration of your trip, it’s important to know how some drinks can affect your sleep.

Caffeine: A Case of the Jitters

A cup of coffee (or tea or cola) can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after you take your first sip. That may be good news if you’re feeling groggy and trying to rev up for a day of sightseeing, but caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours , meaning if you sip a latte at 4 p.m., half of the caffeine will still be in your system at 10 p.m. If you find yourself struggling to sleep at night, consider swapping the afternoon java for a decaf.

Alcohol: The Sleep-Pattern Disrupter

Wine may make you feel sleepy, but that doesn’t mean it helps you get quality shut-eye. In fact, alcohol may actually interrupt your circadian rhythm by affecting levels of chemicals that tell your body when it’s time to sleep or wake up. This is why you may doze off quickly after a glass or two—only to wake up feeling wide-eyed in the middle of the night. Alcohol-impaired sleep can be disruptive no matter where you are, but when you’re traveling, especially if you’re battling jet lag, it can put a damper on your daytime energy.

Soda: A Source of Bloat"


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Electronics Before Bed?

"Ninety percent of people in the U.S. admit to using a technological device during the hour before turning in, and children often use electronic media to help them relax at night. If you’re among these nighttime technology-users, you may not realize the extent to which this can make it harder to settle down to sleep. But it can. The truth is, using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep.

Here’s what happens: Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This is largely due to the short-wavelength, artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. Besides increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, which in turn delays your bedtime, using these devices before turning in delays the onset of REM sleep, reduces the total amount of REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep."

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Beware the Blue

"As difficult as it is to get kids to stop watching TV or using their electronic devices before bedtime, there’s a compelling reason to make it happen. The blue light that’s emitted from these screens can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm ) to a later schedule. This is an especially big problem for teens whose circadian rhythms are already shifting naturally, causing them to feel awake later at night. The end result: sleep-deprived or poorly rested kids who have essentially given themselves a mini case of jet lag.

The reason that blue light is so problematic is that it has a short wavelength that affects levels of melatonin more than any other wavelength does. Light from fluorescent bulbs and LED lights can produce the same effect. Normally, the pineal gland in the brain begins to release melatonin a couple of hours before bedtime, and melatonin reaches its peak in the middle of the night. When people read on a blue light-emitting device (like a tablet, rather than from a printed book) in the evening, it takes them longer to fall asleep; plus, they tend to have less REM sleep (when dreams occur) and wake up feeling sleepier— even after eight hours of shuteye.

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Soda, Pop, Coke, Fizz...

"If you're not getting enough sleep at night, consider what you're drinking during the day. While coffee and alcohol are often blamed for their negative impact on sleep, there's another drink that has been linked with poor sleep: soda.

People who drink a lot of sugary, caffeinated drinks tend to sleep for five or fewer hours a night— far less than would be ideal at any age . While it's unclear whether the drinks lead to sleeplessness or under-sleeping causes people to reach for sugary sodas, there is an association between the two. There are a number of reasons that soda doesn't do you any favors when it comes to healthy sleep."

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Dental Problems Linked to Sleep

"It may seem strange to consult a dentist about sleep trouble, but oral appliances (dental devices) aren’t just used to protect or straighten the teeth—they are also prescribed for a variety of sleep issues. Read on to find out whether using one might help you get rid of your sleep problem and improve your zzz's.

What they are: An oral appliance for sleep looks similar to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer, except it is worn only during sleep. The device pushes the jaw forward to help open up the airways."

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Ethnic Sleeping Facts

"While factors like lifestyle and mental health can raise your risk for sleep disorders, so can something else: your race. Racial minorities have a higher risk for sleep disorders like insomnia than Caucasians. For example, African Americans are more likely than Caucasians to sleep for fewer than six hours a night and have sleep apnea, poor sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness. On average, African Americans sleep almost an hour less a night than whites.

On top of that, African Americans spend only about 15 percent of their night in a stage called slow-wave sleep (which is considered to be the most restorative phase ). Caucasians, on the other hand, spend 20 percent of their night there, so the sleep that they’re getting is of a higher quality. People of Hispanic and Chinese heritage also have higher rates of issues like sleep-disordered breathing and short sleep durations, compared with whites."

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"Getting enough sleep won’t just invigorate you; it could also help control how much you eat. A lack of sleep is linked to overeating—especially the overconsumption of junk food—which can lead to weight gain .

Two hormones that help regulate hunger—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by sleep: Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger."

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Catch It Early

"Do you find yourself struggling to feel rested? Do you have mood and memory problems? Those issues might be caused by obstructive sleep apnea , a disorder that occurs when you struggle to breathe freely throughout the night and can lead to fragmented sleep. Sleep apnea affects 18 million Americans—and there are certain characteristics that can put you at a higher risk for the disorder."

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Is there a link between sleep and diabetes?

"You know that your family medical history, along with what you eat and how much you weigh, can affect your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But did you know that your sleep habits can also play a role? It’s true. In fact, sleep deprivation is an often overlooked but significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, a disease that involves too much glucose (or sugar) in the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.

The connection may be hard to imagine. But the primary reason that regularly skimping on shuteye can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes is because your hormone levels get thrown out of whack. Specifically, with ongoing sleep loss, less insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) is released in the body after you eat. Meanwhile, your body secretes more stress hormones (such as cortisol), which helps you stay awake but makes it harder for insulin to do its job effectively. The net effect: Too much glucose stays in the bloodstream, which can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

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Are you getting too much sleep?

"Most people know that sleep is integral to our mental and physical health, and that sleepiness takes a major toll on work, school, and relationships. Unfortunately, a lot of people go about their daily lives feeling excessively sleepy without mentioning this to their doctor. In fact, a National Sleep Foundation poll found that less than half of people say they would talk to their doctor if they thought they had a sleep problem, and seven in ten said that their doctor had never asked them about their sleep.

If you feel sleepy on a regular basis and it interferes with your productivity, your ability to think clearly and quickly, or to take care of and enjoy your family, treat this symptom seriously and talk to your doctor. If you have an upcoming well visit, you can discuss it then. You could also make a special appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss this, or simply call to ask for a referral to a doctor with a specialty in sleep medicine."

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Sleep Disorders: REM Sleep Behavior Disorder


"For most people, dreaming is purely a "mental" activity: dreams occur in the mind while the body is at rest. But people who suffer from REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) act out their dreams. They physically move limbs or even get up and engage in activities associated with waking. Some engage in sleep talking, shouting, screaming, hitting or punching. Some even fly out of bed while sleeping! RBD is usually noticed when it causes danger to the sleeping person, their bed partner, or others they encounter. Sometimes ill effects such as injury to self or bed partner sustained while asleep trigger a diagnosis of RBD. The good news is that RBD can usually be treated successfully.

What we call "sleep" involves transitions between three different states: wakefulness, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with dreaming, and non rapid eye movement (N-REM) sleep. There are a variety of characteristics that define each state, but to understand REM sleep behavior disorder it is important to know that it occurs during REM sleep. During this state, the electrical activity of the brain, as recorded by an electroencephalogram, looks similar to the electrical activity that occurs during waking. Although neurons in the brain during REM sleep are functioning much as they do during waking, REM sleep is also characterized by temporary muscle paralysis."

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