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Sleep Disturbance among Low-Income Minority Teens

      Background: Sleep is particularly important for brain maturation and sleep deprivation in teens has a potent negative effect on behavior, emotion, and attention. Adolescents tend to experience more problems with sleep loss as a natural consequence of puberty, but teens from impoverished inner-city areas witness violence and experience stressors that are likely to affect sleep.
      Purpose: To examine sleep disturbance, violence, mood, and attitudes in very low income youth in the Mobile Youth Survey (MYS).
      Methodology: The MYS is a longitudinal household study of impoverished inner-city adolescents that has a strong repeat participation rate (70-80%). Data from the years 1998-2005 (N=20,716; age range = 9.75-19.25 years) were used to compare sequential surveys ie, 2-year increments). The measure of sleep disturbance captured aspects of both insomnia and nightmares and was elicited by a question about how sleep was affected “when bad things happen to a friend or a family member”.
      Findings: Growth curve analysis showed that reports of sleep disturbance decreased incrementally from age 10 to age 18, and that after age 10 boys had consistently lower levels of sleep disturbance than girls. Using a cross-lagged panel multivariate approach comparing reports by subject for sequential years and controlling for age and gender, sleep disturbance was associated with violent behavior (carrying, brandishing or using a gun/knife), quick-temperedness, worry, and belief in the neighborhood Street Code in the subsequent year. Conversely, worry, traumatic stress, a quick temper, a positive attitude toward the neighborhood and identification with the Street Code were each associated with sleep disruption in a subsequent year.
      Summary Concluding Statement: These results suggest a partial explanation for the negative effect of socioeconomic status on sleep among low-income adolescents. The data also suggest that developing approaches to sleep hygiene for teens may help reduce violence, aggression, and impulsivity among high-risk groups.