IRA FLATOW, host:
You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. You know, at night on TV when the news comes on they say it's 10 p.m., do you know where your teenagers are? They say kids, but if you change it to teenagers, I'll bet you one things, they are not sleeping. A new survey says that only 20 percent of U.S. adolescents ages 11 to 17, 20 percent, are getting the recommended nine hours of sleep each night, and most parents are in the dark about their kids' sleeping habits.
Listen to this. 90 percent, the study said, 90 percent of the parents polled said their kids were getting enough sleep most nights during the school week. What's keeping these kids up at night? Well, everything from the high-tech trifecta of cell phones, TVs, and laptops, to caffeine-loaded beverages, like triple grande cappuccinos, energy drinks are to blame also, but so is biotechnology, so is biology, which shifts these teenage bodies. As they get to be teenagers, their bodies actually, clocks in them, shift so that they can't fall asleep until late at night, so that that's problem going on compounded with the colas and the caffeines, and the computers, and everything going on. So for the rest of the hour, we're going to talk with sleep experts about this new survey. It's out this week from the National Sleep Foundation, and the reasons, we'll talk about reasons why kids aren't getting enough shuteye. We'll talk about the role of parents, why they are so clueless about their kids' nocturnal habits, and how they might help you get your teens to get more sleep.
If you'd like to join our discussion, our number is 1-800-989-8255, 1-800-989-TALK. And as always, you can surf over to our website, it's sciencefriday.com, because we've got that sleep study on our website. If you'd like to read it, just go over to sciencefriday.com, and then you can read it along and maybe have a question or two to ask. And as always, keep in mind that our guests cannot give you personal advice or individual advice about your kids. We can only speak in generality, so don't ask us to diagnose anything personally. Thank you. Mary Carskadon is the director of the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Research Lab and professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island. She's also the chair of the National Sleep Foundation's 2006 Sleep Poll Taskforce. She joins us from her office at Brown. Welcome to program, Dr. Carskadon.
DR. MARY CARSKADON (Director of Sleep and Chronobiology Research Lab, Bradley Hospital; Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown Medical School; Chair, 2006 Sleep Poll Task Force, National Sleep Foundation): Thank you. Nice to speak with you.
FLATOW: You're welcome. Judith Owens is a co-author of Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens. She's the director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children Hospital, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island, and she joins us today from the studios of WRNI in Providence. Welcome to the program, Dr. Owens.
Dr. JUDITH OWENS (Author, Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens; Director, Pediatric Disorders Clinic, Hasbro Children's Hospital; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Brown Medical School): Thank you very much, Ira. Hi, Mary.
Dr. CARSKADON: Hi, Judith.
FLATOW: I'm sure you know each other from years of collaborating on different kinds of research.
Dr. Carskadon, give us a rundown of the survey findings. How much sleep, I mean, it's really shocking how much sleep adolescents need and how much they're really getting.
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, it is shocking and it is problematic. As you said, only 20 percent get what we consider optimal sleep, which is nine-plus hours, and on the flip side, 45 percent, so nearly half, were sleeping less than eight hours on school nights. And, you know, that's what we want adults to be getting, but these young people...
Dr. CARSKADON: ...are getting less. And if you look at the 12th graders, it's just really staggering. The average amount of sleep they're reporting on school nights is 6.9 hours a night, so that's fully two hours less than we think they need for optimal functioning.
FLATOW: Well, that's even more than some teenagers I know.
Dr. CARSKADON: Well...
FLATOW: I mean, that's the average, right?
DR CARSKADON: That's the average.
FLATOW: so there are some kids getting a lot less and some kids getting a little more there?
Dr. CARSKADON: Yes, mm-hmm.
FLATOW: Now, you study sleep and you've been studying the habits of teenagers and sleep deprivation for years. Were you surprised by this survey study?
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, I think that, you know, we've known now for a while that kids are under sleeping. This gives it a bigger context in the states at least because the Sleep Foundation really did a broad survey across the country, at least across the continental United States, and so it's not just, you know, the kids I look at in Rhode Island, it's more widespread.
FLATOW: Mm hmmm. Not just the Brown?
Dr: CARSKADON: Not just the Brown effect.
FLATOW: Brown kids. Dr. Owens, what surprised you most about the survey findings?
Dr. OWENS: Well I think, as you indicated, Ira, the issue of parents' lack of awareness, really profound lack of awareness, about their teenagers' insufficient sleep. Despite what I think has been a fair amount of press about this issue in the last several years, I've had many comments this week from parents who simply did not know that the average teenager needs nine hours of sleep a night. That, somehow, we've not been successful in getting that message across. I think the other issue about parents' lack of awareness, is they don't see the repercussions. Who sees it are the teachers, and I've given several talks this week to teachers in different school settings, and they're the ones who are seeing these kids falling asleep at their desks in the morning.
FLATOW: Yeah, I noticed that in a survey, how many kids were falling asleep in school, or in the mornings, it's amazing. Why do you think the parents are so clueless about this?
Dr. OWENS: Well, to a certain extent, I think that parents often times relinquish supervision over bedtime somewhere in the middle school years. And then I think often times, parents are going to sleep before their teenagers are. And I think they also expect that they're involved in all kinds of activities, and have all kinds of other things going on, and like most of us, have not made sleep a priority in their own households.
FLATOW: Dr. Carskadon, you agree?
Dr. CARSKADON: I agree with what Judy said. I might add one other point, just to amplify what she said, that the teachers are the ones who get the biggest impact of this because parents are likelier to see their young people in the evenings. We know that's when the circadian, or the biological timing clock, is in the alerting phase. And so, even if they're desperately sleepy in the morning, by evening, you know, the clock has turned in and is waking them up.
FLATOW: Mm-hmm. So they just turned their clock around? They're on a different time zone.
Dr. CARSKADON: That's one way to think of it. I mean, you know, take a teenager who lives in New England, and their brain is in California, in terms of the timing.
FLATOW: In more ways than one.
Dr. CARSKADON: They're in a constant state of jetlag.
FLATOW: And it really does have impact. We've done stories recently about people who, just adults who are not getting enough sleep, and falling asleep at stoplights, things like that, because they may have sleep apnea. But these kids may be doing the same things for a different reason.
Dr. CARSKADON: I think it's really true what -- I took the liberty of extrapolating from the results that the kids gave us on the poll to the public high school enrollment.
Dr. CARSKADON: And if you look at just the high school students, the ninth through 12th grades, 28 percent of the young people said they fall asleep in school at least once a week. So, if we extrapolate that out, 737,000 public high school students fall asleep every day in school. That's, I mean it's ridiculous. Sleep learning doesn't work.
FLATOW: Hmm. Does it affect their grades? Are they doing poorly? They must be if they're sleeping, or sleepwalking through some of these classes.
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, as you know, grades are determined by many factors. But it was, I think, important that the poll did ask young people to tell us their grades, and if you look at those kids who are getting plenty of sleep, the optimal nine-plus hours, they were more likely to report that they're getting pretty much all A's...
Dr. CARSKADON: ...than those, than lower grades. And if you look at the young people who reported sleeping eight hour or less, which we called insufficient sleep, they're more likely to report getting B's, C's, D's, and so for. So, it did have an association with grades.
Dr. OWENS: I think that's...
FLATOW: Judith Owens?
Dr. OWENS: ...yeah, I think that's very important point, particularly because there's this kind of myth around that if you're a really good student, you need stay up late and study or pull all-nighters. And the data really suggests that, in fact, it's just the opposite. It's the kids who are well rested and able to take the tests with some level of accuracy and efficiency and alertness that are really doing much better.
FLATOW: Mm-hmmm. 1-800-989-8255. Jonathan in Miami, welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY. Yes? Hi.
JONATHAN (Caller): ...just share an observation that I had recently as, we as parents, the parent body and the teachers are trying to work with our students to try to get them to go to sleep because they're staying up all hours. I realized that my students don't consider the school day to be part of their day. So they get home at 4:30, 5:00 at night, because we have an extra long schedule, and they look at their day as just beginning.
JONATHAN: So, you know, this is my observation. I'm not sure. So why are we surprised that they don't want to go to bed at 9:00, 10:00 at night if they just look at their day as starting at 5:00 when then get home?
FLATOW: Are they then sleeping through the first part of their day when they should be sleeping, in school?
JONTHAN: Some of them are struggling to stay awake and some of them are, if they're physically awake, they're not present in the classroom, and that certainly not for lack of my attempting to make my classes as interesting and as compelling as possible for them.
FLATOW: Dr. Owens, Dr. Carskadon any reactions?
Dr. CARSKADON: I think that's pretty consistent with what we feel is happening to these young people. And we do hear from teachers all the time, at least I do, how hard they're working especially in the morning classes. But it's fascinating to hear that you know they're day starts for them after school though you know we as adults think well we need to get them prepared to go to school. That's their you know essentially their job as a lesson. So that, you know, part of that feeling maybe just I feel so desperately awful during the school hours, I can't think of it as my day.
FLATOW: Well, but you're not sitting there with four different electronic devices when you get home from school.
Dr. OWENS: Exactly. I, I you know I think that that's a huge, all the competing priorities that kids have for sleep and rest. You know 97 percent of the students that were polled said they have had some electronic device in their bedroom. Bedrooms become sort of these entertainment zones for kids and there's no question that, that interferes with their ability to prepare psychologically and mentally to go sleep. An interesting story, I gave a talk at my son's school this week, and one of the teachers commented afterwards that he had taken a group of 15, 16, 17-year-old boys including my son to Ecuador last summer for five weeks, and the average bedtime for the kids was 8:30, because there was nothing else to do. And yet I know with my son who is almost 17, I have to practically drag him off the computer after three warnings at 10:00 at night. So, clearly there's a huge piece of this that's biology, but a lot of it is electronics and over stimulation and too many activities.
FLATOW: I have to agree with you. Let me remind everybody that this is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. We're talking about teenagers and their sleep habits with our Mary Carskadon and Judy Owens. Our number 1-800-989-8255. I found it to be with my kids too, true also. You know I've had to actually put a timer on the internet to control when they could get on and off.
Dr. CARSKADON: I've sort of framed this in my head as kind of the perfect storm. I mean the biology hasn't really changed, and it wasn't different in Ecuador than here, although the light that the boys got in Ecuador is a lot different than that feeds back on the biology. But you know what's new now in the 21st century, maybe the later part of the 20th century, really is all of these over-stimulated and this sort of technological playground that bedrooms have been turned into. Throw in a healthy dose of caffeine and you know they're just caught in this maelstrom.
FLATOW: Yeah, they're doing these frappacinos and high caffeinated drinks now. And you're right, put those two together, and I wouldn't be sleeping either.
Dr. CARSKADON: Right. Except that your 8:00 class, or your 7:00 class, which a lot of the older teenagers have to confront.
FLATOW: Well, let's talk a bit, Dr. Owens, about the health consequences there must be besides the academic consequences, the health consequences, if you're doing this over a period of years?
Dr. OWENS: Well, certainly we know from the poll results that mental health consequences seem to be very closely linked to insufficient sleep, which we know from many other research avenues. But the kids who are getting less sleep clearly were more depressed, had more mood issues, and that clearly is a significant concern when we consider the prevalence of depression in the adolescent population. One of the other health consequences which I've actually found quite interesting was that insufficient sleep seems to affect their interest in or willingness to exercise. And clearly when we have this epidemic of pediatric obesity that has occurred in this country, you wonder how much of a role both insufficient sleep in it of itself, as well as leading to inadequate exercise, how big of a role that might play in all that.
FLATOW: Mm-hmm. Let's go to Judy in Boston. Hi, welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.
JUDY (Caller): Hi I was just wondering does naps help? Cause I remember I would always take a nap when I came home from school as a teenager?
FLATOW: Yeah, good question. Can you catch up a little during the day?
Dr. CARSKADON: Yeah, I think naps can be a good short term solution but one of the studies that our group did a while ago showed that people getting insufficient sleep, and this was college students sleeping five hours a night, that afternoon nap actually did help for five or six hours with alertness. And, of course, the problem is that it had absolutely no impact on how sleepy they were the next morning. So to some extent if falling asleep early in the evening or earlier in the evening is a problem, then that actually can interfere with that as well. So it's, it's kind of can be a good news, bad news solution.
FLATOW: Hmm. Can you catch up on the weekend you know if you sleep like teenagers do till noon or 2:00?
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, that's another one of these good news, bad news problems. If the teenagers... Remember we have our clock that's helping regulate part of this. And if you teach the brain that nighttime goes till noon or 2:00 in the afternoon, then come Monday morning, the brain's going want to be on the pillow, not in the classroom. So, you really run into kind of catch-22 there, and I think, I mean Judy may have more to say about this in terms of what to advise parents in terms of how late to let the youngsters sleep in in the mornings on weekends, you can't just cut them off at the pass and not let them get any extra sleep, but I think if they run their clocks really late, it can head into other problems.
FLATOW: Dr. Owens, hang on because I'll get your reaction, we have to break away to take a short break. And when we come back, we'll talk with Judith Owens and Mary Cascaden, sleep experts. Dr. Owens is author Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep. Stay with us we'll take your questions after this break. We'll be right back. I'm Ira Flatow. This is TALK OF THE NATION SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking this hour about teens and sleep with my guest Judith Owens who is co-author of Take Charge of Your Sleep. She's Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Brown Medical School in Providence. And Mary Carskadon, who is director of the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chrono Biology Research Lab and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School. Our number 1-800-989-8255. Dr. Owens, did you want to jump in there or should we just move on?
Dr. OWENS: Well, just to reiterate what Mary commented on. I think we do typically tell parents that it's important to try to keep as consistent a sleep-wake schedule between weekdays and weekends. In younger kids, we recommend no more than an hour difference. Obviously with teenagers, they are going to need to extend their sleep a little bit. But it really does impact on the circadian rhythm. The other issue is that when you think about it here they are regaining some of their alertness for the weekend, but then when the weekday comes, the time when they need to be at their most alert, they need to perform in school, they're really at a disadvantage.
FLATOW: Is there anyway for a parent to know by, you know, your kid's actions whether they're sleep deprived or not?
Dr. OWENS: Well, one of the clues is how, whether your teenager wakens spontaneously in the morning. And when you look at surveys about this, typically during the school day again, teenagers need an alarm clock or a parent or someone else to take them. Where as if they're allowed to sleep as long as they need to on the weekends they wake up spontaneously. So, that's one clue. Another clue, you know, you raised the issue of napping, about 30 percent of the kids in the survey were taking fairly regular naps after school. And the need to that suggests that you're not getting adequate sleep at night.
FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. Let's go to Steve in Minnesota. Hi, Steve.
STEVE (Caller): Hi, Ira. Comment I wanted to make, Ira, is about six years ago, I was a president of a school board in West Central, Wisconsin, and the Dinah(ph) School District in Minnesota did something like this where they backed up the school day for the senior high. And so I suggested that to our school board, and the teacher's union was not happy with this. They liked getting out at 2:30 in the afternoon, and they really raised a ruckus of us trying to change the schedule of moving the elementary earlier and the high school school schedule later. And so I was beat up on that and that was the teacher's union who stopped it.
FLATOW: Dr. Carskadon, any comment?
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, physiologically it makes a little sense too because the adults are actually more alert in the morning. Their circadian rhythm clock is different and it's set at a different time. So, indeed, it is easier for them to make it to school at an earlier hour. The problem is that the victim becomes the student, who's the one who's supposed to be trying to get an education. So I could see that it would be a potentially big conflict. And I think that's why school districts who've managed to make the change have really been those successful in getting, you know, input from and acceptance from teachers, parents, and students. And those who've done it seem to find most of the constituents being much happier.
FLATOW: Thanks for calling, Steve.
STEVE (Caller): Thank you, Ira.
Dr. OWENS: I think one of the important things that also has emerged from that great Minnesota experiment is the fact that the kids, whose start times were delayed, really did sleep longer. You know, one of the arguments against changing school start times is well they'll just stay up an hour later. And they won't get anymore sleep.
Dr. OWENS: When, in fact, the data shows that the kids, whose start times were changed, went to bed at the same time, but they slept an hour later, getting five more hours of sleep a week.
FLATOW: Are we seeing any age creep downward to the younger kids? I mean, now they're getting these, you know, more caffeine and more electronic toys?
Dr. CARSKADON: I think there's still some protection, both biologically and parentally for the younger children. But I think there is some erosion. I mean more and more, and Judy has some data on this, we see bedroom TVs in younger and younger children and that does impact on their sleep. So, you know, it is of a concern, and again, the times we live in don't favor sleep.
Dr. OWENS: You know it's interesting. We did a study a couple years ago in which we did interviews with mostly inner-city middle school-aged students about, kind of attitudes and beliefs about sleep. And one of the interesting things to me was how many of the kids commented that they would really like their parents to be more involved in setting a bedtime, telling them to go to bed, helping them manage their time in the evening so they can finish their homework and whatever else they need to do and get to bed on time. So they're asking for help.
FLATOW: Yeah. What's also interesting here is we've had other researchers, Robert Stickel(ph) from Harvard's been on many times, and he studies learning of skills. And his research shows definitely that if you don't get seven or more hours of sleep of night, those piano lessons or whatever kinds of new things you're trying to learn, are just not going to work that well.
Dr. OWENS: Well, there certainly is wonderful evidence from his lab of enhanced learning with optimal sleep, and if optimal sleep is longer in young people, you know, and it's where learning is, you know, more critical, where neuro-circuitry is being linked up differently. I mean, it really is a critical time.
FLATOW: Yeah. Let's go to the phones. Sumage(ph), in Stockton.
SUMAGE (Caller): Hi. I'm 16, and I was wondering what kind of long-term effects does this sleep deprivation have on a kid? Because, I just have some coffee, and I'll be fine, you know? And I go to school, and I do what I do, and I fall asleep about fifth period. So, I was wondering what kind of effects does this has long-term. That's all.
FLATOW: Well, is that science class?
SUMAGE: Oh, no. It's computers.
FLATOW: Well, you've done that at night already.
SUMAGE: Yeah, exactly. Do I hang up now or just...
FLATOW: Yeah, you can, if you'd like. Thanks for calling, you can listen off the air. Dr. Owens, what do you think?
Dr. OWENS: Well, as I mentioned before, I think one of the potential issues with chronic insufficient sleep is this whole link between metabolic syndrome, the hormones that control appetite and metabolism, and the eventual development of obesity. And there's some very intriguing evidence to suggest that there's a link between people who don't get adequate sleep and who are overweight or obese. So, obviously that's one potential health consequence. One of the other things we really haven't talked much about is this whole issue of drowsy driving. And I think it's something that's very under recognized, but when you look at the poll numbers, a substantial percentage of teenagers are driving while drowsy. And that's equally dangerous as driving when they're drunk, and yet we don't pay a lot of attention to that. It's not something which kids are taught about, typically, in driver ed classes. And that has potentially fatal consequences.
Dr. CARSKADON: I think you could also have links to that kind of outcome with the depressed mood, as well. The problem is, we don't have the kind of prospective data that really would enable us to say for sure one way or the other.
FLATOW: Well, we do know teens are involved in a much higher proportion of accidents now, don't we?
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, there's certainly data...there was a lovely study done a number of years ago looking at crashes where the driver was drowsy. And half of them, the driver was aged 16 to 25. So, it's a high-risk group.
FLATOW: So, we've normally said that's because they've been distracted by other teens in the car, you know, talking, and playing, you know, being distracted. But it could be because of drowsiness or depression.
Dr. CARSKADON: I think that's, you know, I think all of those factors come in. But it really is clear that, you know, teens are drowsy. They're just learning how to drive, and you know, you sort of have a compounding of factors. And if they're experimenting with alcohol, the effects of alcohol on a drowsy brain are enormous and accelerated, versus the effects on an alert brain.
FLATOW: Where would you go with a study or a survey like this? What would you like to know in a future survey or a study that you might undertake?
Dr. CARSKADON: For me, I really think this issue of looking at things prospectively and ask your young caller suggested, having a better sense really of what long-term outcomes are, is an important place to go.
FLATOW: Is it equal between boys and girls? Are they equally sleep deprived?
Dr. OWENS: We didn't see many gender effects in this study.
Dr. OWENS: So, it feels like, you know, occasionally we'll see an effect where girls in the high school tend to get up a little earlier, but the boys stay awake a little later, so they end up with sort of the same net deficit.
FLATOW: Well let's go to Tammy, in Denver. Hi Tammy.
TAMMY (Caller): Hello. How are you?
TAMMY: Wonderful. I actually have a comment. I didn't get much sleep at all in high school. I was valedictorian, school government president, very perfectionistic. But I actually liked school, so I think that might make a difference as well. I was very healthy, like I said, you know, did a lot of things there, but I think, actually enjoying the process might have a lot to do with it as well.
Dr. OWENS: I think that's an interesting comment, because we know that one of the things that potentially is most affected by sleep deprivation, actually, is motivation. So, it's kind of a vicious cycle there. But, you know, I think, Tammy, there are always folks like you, who, by virtue of genetics, or will, or whatever else is going on, you know, seem to be able to get by reasonably well on what seems like an inadequate amount of sleep. But I think to count on that, for the average teenager, is really a very dangerous proposition.
TAMMY: Of course. I would just hate for the really motivated kids to be forced to cut back on what their passionate about.
FLATOW: All right, thanks for calling, Tammy. Good luck to you. 800-989-8255. Nick in Whalen, Mass. Hi Nick.
NICK (Caller): Hi.
FLATOW: Hi there.
NICK: I was listening to your show just now and I wanted to call and say that I'm a sophomore. I'm 15, and, you know, even if I try to go to bed at, you know, ten o'clock, I usually can't fall asleep until eleven, you know, no matter what my day's been like.
FLATOW: Good point. I've heard that from lots of teenagers. Yeah. Dr. Owens?
Dr. OWENS: Well, again, that gets to the point of biology. That's where the inherent circadian clock really plays a very important role, and you're absolutely right. You probably aren't able to fall asleep. The problem is obviously that you're not able to get enough sleep at the other end, in the morning, in order to allow you not to be sleep deprived. So we really, there's relatively little that we can do about the nighttime end.
FLATOW: Nick, hang on there for a second. I just have to remind everybody this is TALK OF THE NATION Science Friday, from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow with Judith Owens and Mary Carskadon. Nick, do you find that friends of yours falling asleep in school?
NICK: I never sleep through the day. I rarely take naps at all.
FLATOW: Mm-hmm. So you get a good night's sleep then?
NICK: Yeah, usually.
FLATOW: And you're friends, too?
NICK: Most of my friends. Actually I have a friend who barely gets any sleep and is functional through the day, but he usually gets, you know, two hours of sleep a night.
Dr. OWENS: Well, I think that the term functional is an important one. You know, do we really want to spend our lives being functional, or do we want to optimize our performance? And I think if you said to the average parent, well, you know, you're not going to be able to give that Stanley Kaplan course to your son or daughter for their SATs, they would balk about that. And yet, here's something relatively simple that we can do to really optimize our children's performance.
FLATOW: Thanks for calling, Nick.
FLATOW: Good luck to you. What else, what other changes can parents do to get teens to get more sleep? Can you encourage them to change their eating or drinking habits, things like that?
Dr. CARSKADON: Well... I'm sorry, go ahead Mary.
Dr. CARSKADON: I was just going to comment on all the bedroom technology and limit setting, and challenging young people to make choices and not to do everything. And I think as Judy alluded to earlier, really, parents helping to set the limits that set this groundwork of adequate sleep, as an important part of the life of a child. And until the whole family kind of buys into it, it is a problem. And, you know, it's hard to just start when someone turns age 16.
FLATOW: But do these teenagers view this as a problem? The parents made, the school made, do they, you know, have they owned up to this as a problem that they'd like to get past, or is it just, you know, part of being a teenager?
Dr. CARSKADON: Well, I think, you know, the poll results suggest that the young people understood they weren't getting enough sleep, and that they were struggling in school to stay awake, and that their -- whether they're attributing things to sleep is another issue. You know? Maybe we just want our teens to be sad and grumpy people.
Dr. OWENS: No, I don't think so.
FLATOW: That is the definition of teenagers, isn't it?
Dr. OWENS: It doesn't have to be.
Dr. CARSKADON: It isn't the definition of a teenager. I mean, that's what the poll really showed to me. It doesn't have to be. If you look at the kids who were getting enough sleep, they weren't sad and grumpy and struggling to get along with parents and teachers and get good grades. So it is an inevitable consequence of teenagers.
FLATOW: Any last comments, Judy Owens?
Dr. OWENS: Well, I, no, I think its very important for parents to be proactive and as Mary alluded to, it's a lot easier to prevent the problem from happening than to deal with it once it's there. And starting early, teaching our kids in school about the importance of health. We teach them about all kinds of other things like good nutrition and exercise, sleep should be right up there as a priority.
Dr. CARSKADON: And I think, remember the issue of driving. Now maybe for city kids it's not a problem because they're not driving. But kids who are going to get their license at 15 or 16 and be out driving, do we want them suffering a fatal consequence of insufficient sleep?
FLATOW: Yeah. Good words of caution to end on. Mary Carskadon, director of the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Research Lab, professor at Brown Medical School in Providence. Thank you for taking time to be with us today. Judith Owens, co-author of Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep, director of the pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at the Hasbro Children's Hospital and professor at Brown Medical School, in Providence. Thank you for joining us also.
Dr. OWENS: Thank you.
FLATOW: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.