Take charge of your health today. Be informed. Be involved. …Teens and Sleep

by Esther Bush, For New Pittsburgh Courier

This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on teens and sleep. Erricka Hager and Bee Schindler, community engagement coordinators, University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh spoke about this topic.

BS: Good morning, Ms. Bush. I thank you for the chance to talk with you today about teens and sleep. A 2014 study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that, while most people in the study did not get the eight to nine hours of sleep per night that’s suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black male participants had the least amount of sleep, which could play a role in daily life activities like school performance.

EB: That’s a great point, Bee, especially when, as Dr. Hasler states, school start times are the earliest they have ever been. If young people are not getting enough sleep, we have to wonder whether discipline rates for attentiveness begin to shift. And we know that studies have repeatedly shown that black students in the United States are subject to disciplinary action at rates much higher than their white counterparts.

BS: Right; the effects of sleep are multifaceted. And it’s interesting that Dr. Hasler also notes that trying to make up sleep on the weekends actually has worsening effects on overall health.

EH: Esther and I previously discussed the “sleep gap” and how it negatively affects the health of black adult shift-workers. However, researcher Tiffany Yip, PhD, professor of psychology at Fordham University, has found that the sleep gap between white and nonwhite students starts as young as 2 years old and only grows from there. Tiffany’s study has shown that white students have slept hundreds of hours more than black students. The study cites how the effect of stressors like discrimination from peers or teachers not only affects sleep but also hinders academic performance.

EB: Yes, Erricka; I remember our conversation about how black Americans are suffering from a “sleep gap,” but I didn’t realize that it starts at such an early age. It’s unfortunate that this disparity isn’t receiving much attention, especially when we understand how important sleep is to our health. What are some suggestions to help teens get more sleep and ultimately reduce the sleep gap?

BS: Dr. Hasler notes that keeping track of sleep patterns, limiting the blue light from smart devices before bed and being mindful of teenagers’ natural daily cycles could help young folks get more restful sleep. It sounds as if these steps could also potentially reduce the sleep gap.

EB: Thank you so much for having this conversation with me, Erricka and Bee. We’ve provided some great information and ways that readers can take charge of their health today. I look forward to next month as we discuss the importance of oral health.


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