Last week during Pascack Valley High School’s “Pascack Period,” more than 60 students attended a seminar called “The Teen Sleep Crisis,” by Alicia Braine, a Clinical Regional Manager for Persante Health Care. Braine oversees the operation of 16 sleep centers in New Jersey and beyond, including The Sleep Center at HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley in Westwood, a recently opened facility. Braine was invited to speak to members of a new course offered at PVHS – Ramapo College Honors Psychology, their friends and classmates, and other members of the student body and staff.
Braine worked as a Respiratory Therapist and was a national Asthma Educator who received the credential of Certified Pulmonary Function Technician, before transitioning to the field of sleep. She worked for many years in labs performing sleep studies on children, teenagers and adults. In her current leadership role, she works closely with physicians and manages staff members in the sleep centers.
In her presentation, she led students through a comprehensive tour of the dynamic process of sleep that unfolds throughout the night, explained why getting enough high-quality sleep is essential to the physical and mental well-being of everyone, and described the various reasons why teenagers are especially susceptible to chronic sleep deprivation. Students also learned about the warning signs of common sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy, and how their doctors and local sleep professionals could help improve their lives by diagnosing and treating these conditions.
Students also learned about how the biological deck is stacked against them, that teenagers, who need 8-9 hours of sleep, have to fight against their own internal biological clocks. Melatonin, the hormone which makes you sleepy and keeps you asleep throughout the night, is released two hours later in teenagers than adults, and continues to flow two hours later in the morning than their parents, forcing them to fight against their own biology in order to perform effectively in school at 8:00AM. On top of this biological reality, Braine also informed students how their own bad habits further exacerbate the problem: by looking at bright electronic screens in the two hours before bedtime, they inadvertently delay the release of melatonin even longer.
Chronic sleep deprivation, in many cases, is the overlooked, underlying problem that contributes to a wide variety of other serious clinical psychiatric and medical conditions, from depression and anxiety disorders to diabetes and heart disease. If sleep problems are addressed, people can lead healthier, happier lives.
She provided students with a wide variety of common sense tips and solutions that they could implement in their daily lives to maximize the amount and quality of sleep, and also reminded them of the fact that if sleep continues to be a problem, they should reach out to their family doctors and consider spending a night in a sleep clinic. There are nearby professionals and high-quality facilities ready to help.
More information about The Sleep Center at HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley can be obtained by calling 201-781-1351 or visiting http://www.hackensackumcpv.