Stories about: Judith Owens

The dangers of sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation in physicians is dangerous

An emergency room physician completes her overnight shift in a busy, inner city emergency department. She stays an extra hour and a half to complete paperwork then goes home. Although exhausted, she’s “too wired” to sleep.

Eventually she dozes off but the phone calls from family and friends begin. She’s only able to get six hours of interrupted sleep before leaving home for the next shift. The ER physician is fatigued, irritable and frustrated.

Now repeat.

“This sleep pattern takes a terrible toll in the short and long term,” says Judith Owens, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Shift work is associated with “deficient” sleep, meaning that both the amount and timing of sleep are altered. Our natural circadian rhythms result in humans being hardwired to sleep at night and be awake during the day, and the combination of this “misalignment” with insufficient sleep can be very problematic.” …Read More

Melatonin and children: advice from a sleep specialist

child insomnia melatonin
(Natalia Deksbakh/Shutterstock)

There is evidence that melatonin — an over-the-counter synthetic form of the melatonin hormone our brains naturally produce to help us fall asleep — can shorten the time to fall asleep in children with insomnia, including children with ADHD, autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. But there is much less evidence melatonin helps children stay asleep, even in its extended-release forms. In addition, there are many reasons why children may have trouble falling asleep; anxiety, restless legs symptoms or a too-early bedtime are just a few.

In a conversation with our sister blog Thriving, Judith Owens, MD, director of the Sleep Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, answered several questions about melatonin’s safety and benefits in children.

Read Owens’s advice on Thriving for families asking about melatonin.

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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

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