Author: Judith Owens, MD, MPH

Quick Note: Poor sleep habits in young children linked to obesity years later

kid watching tv in darkSometimes for a parent of a preschooler, it seems like bedtime cannot come soon enough, especially after a particularly challenging day. But while an early bedtime for young children may mean a break for harried parents, it can also have a positive impact on children’s health, even years later.

In a recent article published in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers Anderson, Andridge and Whitaker studied over 900 children between the ages of 3 and 5 years as part of a large national long-term study, Early Child Care and Youth Development. They found that about a quarter of the children had average bedtimes after 9pm as reported by parents, while another 25% had bedtimes before 8pm. When re-examined at around age 15 years, height and weight were measured in these same children and compared to age and gender-specific norms. The teens with late bedtimes as preschoolers were more than twice as likely to be obese compared to those with an early bedtime, even after accounting for known obesity-related factors such as birthweight and mother’s weight. The rate of obesity for the “intermediate bedtime” group (16%) was between that of the early and late bedtime groups (10% and 23% respectively). …Read More

Restless legs syndrome: The most important sleep disorder you’ve never heard of

restless leg syndrome

Let’s face it, restless legs syndrome (also known as RLS or Willis-Ekbom disease) is not exactly a household word in most American families. And the notion that children and teens may have symptoms of this condition is even less appreciated. But let’s take a closer look at what is actually a pretty common sleep disorder and an oft overlooked reason kids have difficulty falling asleep.

RLS is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by a nearly irresistible urge to move, mostly the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings.  These feelings are often described as “creepy-crawly”, “ants crawling on my legs”, “pins and needles.”

The urge (and sensations if present) occur only at rest or are worst at rest/ in the evening.  Symptoms are temporarily relieved by movements such as jiggling or jerking the legs, walking around, or rubbing the legs.

It’s not hard to imagine that these symptoms would interfere with falling asleep. …Read More

Read Full Story | Leave a Comment

Five Canadians, two Americans and 5,000 bedkits: A sleep health mission in West Bengal

Judith Owens sleep health pediatric sleep disorders SWAC India Kolkata West Bengal
Judith Owens, MD, MPH, (third from left) and her co-volunteers on an SCAW distribution mission in India. (Courtesy Judith Owens)

As a pediatrician specializing in treating children with special needs, I tend to operate on the assumption that I have “seen it all” after practicing for the past 25 years.

But once again, the experience of volunteering with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) — a Canadian-based global not-for-profit organization that supports the basic right of every child to have a comfortable night’s sleep — has given me a new perspective on the kinds of challenges that children and their families face on a daily basis. Especially in impoverished areas like rural India, where I recently spent 12 days as part of a volunteer team distributing bedkits (mattresses, pillows, bed nets) around Kolkata in West Bengal. …Read More

Read Full Story | Leave a Comment