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Learn strategies to help teens catch some Zs :

June 27, 2019

Editor's note:The 2019 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Oct. 25-29 in New Orleans.

When it comes to getting enough sleep, today’s teens face multiple obstacles.

Changes in their brains delay secretion of melatonin. Their schedules are jam-packed with school work and extracurricular activities. And they are using electronic devices at all hours of the night to do their homework, post messages and communicate with their friends.

“Screens are right now the No. 1 sleep enemy,” said Adiaha I. A. Spinks-Franklin, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

So should parents and pediatricians simply raise the white flag?

Absolutely not, said Dr. Franklin, who will lead a session titled “Strategies to Help Sleepless Teens” from 2-2:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 (F2143) in room 352 of the convention center and from 7:30-8:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 27 (F3014) in rooms 228-230.

Dr. Franklin acknowledges that it’s a tough task to ensure overscheduled adolescents get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep a night.

“A lot of teens are very busy,” she said. “They are stacking their resumes.”

Pediatricians can begin by asking patients regularly about sleep, said Dr. Franklin, a member of the AAP Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

“If we don’t talk about it during our clinic encounters, then there’s really no one else who is going to address this issue with our teens,” she said. “Chronic insomnia is going to lead to a lot of health problems in the immediate future and down the road. So it’s a very important topic to discuss during clinic encounters.”

Dr. Franklin will share evidence-based strategies pediatricians can use to motivate adolescents — and their parents — to make sleep a priority. For example, if the teen is an athlete, discuss how lack of sleep affects sports performance.

“You want them to see the benefits of making those changes vs. making it feel like a punishment,” she said. “If it feels like a punishment, no one wants to do it.”

The next step is to help them make changes gradually.

“So then, ripping it off like a Band-Aid at the behest of the pediatrician isn’t going to work. It’s going to cause a lot of conflict,” Dr. Franklin said. “It has to be something that the teen, the doctor and the parent can come to an agreement together as to what is reasonable.”

For more coverage of the 2019 AAP National Conference & Exhibition, visit

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