The Club was treated to a truly outstanding presentation on a critical public health issue, Adolescent Sleep Health, by Raul Pelayo, MD at Stanford University.  Dr. Pelayo has been actively involved in sleep research for many years, especially research on the impact of sleep or rather the lack of sleep on students.  His research was critical in the passage of SB 328 that establishes later starting times for schools across California.  Start by watching this short video on Sleep and the Immune System.
Dr. Pelayo noted that the iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007, which means that it has been a normal part of every middle and high school student’s life, which has public health ramifications.
The medical basis for the presentation is that delayed sleep phase insomnia is proposed to be a disorder of the circadian sleep-wake rhythm in which the "advance" portion of the phase response curve is small.
In his presentation, Dr. Pelayo explored:
  • How sleep affects adolescent physical and mental health, suicide, and safety;
  • The biological basis for teenagers’ later sleep and wake cycles;
  • Why sleep is even more important during the pandemic; and
  • What schools, parents, teachers, and students can do to improve teens’ sleep (Why sleep-friendly school hours are essential for adolescent sleep health, learning, and equity).
Regarding SB 328, which requires that all public middle schools start no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 am by 2022, Dr. Pelayo recommended Assemblywoman Weber’s speech, which can and should be viewed here, and concisely outlines the issues.
Other points regarding adolescent sleep as a public health issue included:
  • Insufficient sleep increases suicidality in adolescents;
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of U.S. teens;
  • Adolescents who reported poorer sleep also exhibited greater risk-taking. (The results suggest that poor sleep may exaggerate the normative imbalance between affective and cognitive control systems, leading to greater risk-taking in adolescents.)
During his presentation, Dr. Pelayo explored the myth that monotony causes sleepiness when the reality is that monotony unmasks sleepiness.  Another myth that he exposes is that one cannot catch up on lost sleep (e.g., sleeping longer on the weekend can make up for lost sleep during the week).
Another important aspect of the presentation was that sleep and the immune system have a bi-directional relationship:
  • When we feel sick, we want to get in bed and when we are sleep deprived, we are more prone to infections. (This relationship has been studied for decades.)
  • People with sleep disorders are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases.
  • Experimental studies in animals have proven causality for the role of sleep with infection outcomes.
  • Lack of sleep is a stressor to the body and the body’s reaction is described as like a low-grade inflammation. Public Health issue
Additional information:
  • Click here for more information about Dr. Pelayo’s new book, How to Sleep.
  • Click here to watch the presentation.
  • Click here to see the slides.