CHOC pediatrician talks adolescent sleep hygiene on SiriusXM’s “Doctor Radio” show

CHOC Children’s pediatrician Eric Ball, M.D., was a guest on SiriusXM’s Doctor Radio show to discuss sleep hygiene among adolescents—an often misunderstood topic.

Dr. Eric Ball, Pediatrics

“As a pediatrician, I have this conversation several times per day,” says Ball. “Many people don’t realize teens need more sleep than the average adult.”

Dr. Ball explained that adolescence is a tricky time in terms of sleep habit changes. Puberty transforms the average teen from a morning person to a night owl, and their sleep schedules need to reflect that.

Part of the issue, he says, is that schools have not yet adjusted to reflect this need; 43% of American high schools start before 8 a.m., he notes, but that ideally should be 8:30 a.m. or later. Dr. Ball has advocated for California state legislation that would mandate such a start time among high schools.

On the show, Dr. Ball also shared a few tips to help teens improve their sleep hygiene.

7 ways pediatricians can help parents manage their teen’s sleeping habits:

  1. Encourage parents to limit screen time after dark
    “I’m happy my kids are involved in their culture and keeping in touch with friends,” says Dr. Ball. “But bright light tells your brain it’s noon and not 10 p.m., so there’s no melatonin surge telling your brain it’s time for bed.” Blue light glasses may help, but it’s much safer and healthier to simply shut off the screens and focus on relaxation once the sun goes down.

  2. Suggest parents develop a “digital curfew”
    It is much easier to limit screen time if parents replace that time with something fun. Suggest family meditation or a starting a membership to a meditation app that teens can use on their own, if they prefer. If parents have a young child prone to waking up during the night, encourage them to try guided imagery to teach their child to put themselves back to sleep.




  3. Help parents start a sleep diary
    Sleepfoundation.org has a sleep diary function parents can easily introduce to their kids. It is a quick and simple way to keep track of sleeping habits, see where problems arise and work alongside their child to improve those habits.

  4. Have parents to work backwards to find the best bedtime
    Parents can start by figuring out what time their teen needs to wake up to get to school on time. Work backwards from there to find an appropriate bedtime. Then, keep working backwards to see how to fit in after-school necessities like homework, sports, social time and family time. The key is making bedtime the priority.

  5. Make sure parents focus on weekend sleep hygiene, too
    Sleeping in a little on weekends is fine, says Dr. Ball, but teens should avoid sleeping hours into the day. Helping adolescents develop more consistent sleep hygiene throughout the week and weekend is critical.

  6. Tell parents to avoid melatonin unless necessary
    Sometimes kids with autism spectrum disorder or who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder require the aid of melatonin, but in other cases, says Dr. Ball, it’s best for doctors to use it as a last resort. “If teens have poor sleep hygiene, there’s not enough melatonin in the world to fix that,” he says. “It becomes a crutch, and then you’re treating the symptoms—not the cause.”

  7. Urge parents to prioritize sleep
    Adolescents in competitive schools or programs tend to prioritize just about everything other than sleep, but no amount of studying will prepare a kid to perform their best the way good sleep will. Remind busy and high-achieving kids that sleep is not a luxury but a necessity, and that an extra half hour of studying likely won’t make the difference that eight hours of sleep will.

CHOC’s AYA Cancer Efforts Earn National Attention

The adolescent and young adult cancer movement has helped define patients by age rather than disease and raise awareness of the population’s unique needs, Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, tells “The Huffington Post.”

Dr. Sender’s and CHOC’s leadership role in the adolescent and young adult cancer movement were prominently featured recently on the popular online news site that covers a range of topics such as health care, technology, business, politics and entertainment.

The three-part series was centered on the recent Society of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (SAYAO) conference held in partnership with CHOC’s Cancer Institute.

The first piece featured an interview with Dr. Sender who is also the director of the Cancer Institute’s adolescent and young adult program and developed SAYAO. Dr. Sender discussed the movement’s achievements, its ongoing priorities and goals, as well as its future.

“I believe the movement as a whole is going to help define four big age groups of people getting cancers, and that we are going to start addressing cancer in terms of what it means for those age groups,” he said. “So, what does it mean for a geriatric patient who is different from an adult who is different from an AYA who is different from a pediatric patient?”

CHOCThe series’ second installment, “Advances in the Young Adult Cancer Movement: Why SAYAO Is a Big Deal,” discussed the origins of SAYAO and its efforts to create an academic space for medical professionals to discuss and educate one another on the specific topics relevant to this patient population.

The article also provided an overview of the two-day conference held in October.

The series’ third piece, “New Innovation in the AYA Cancer Movement: The Future is Here,” detailed new technology discussed at the conference that could factor in future treatment of adolescents and young adults with cancer.

For example, My Bridge 4 Life, an organization whose products use technology to help people improve healthcare management, developed the Infusionarium at CHOC’s Cancer Institute. The Infusionarium, which ran as a pilot in 2013, incorporated sensory elements and media to help combat the isolation, boredom and stress often felt by patients during cancer treatment.

Also, My Bridge 4 Life and SeventyK announced a new video survival guide and eBook for adolescents and young adults with cancer.