The Get To Sleep Study: Using Mobile Technology to Assess the Impact of Neighborhood Context on Sleep Among Urban Teens

Statement of Problem

More than 75% of high school students in the United States are not getting the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Insufficient sleep is a critical public health concern as it increases risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Adolescents from low-income urban communities are especially susceptible to not getting enough sleep. Research suggests that neighborhood stressors, such as crime and physical disorder like litter or vacant lots, may also adversely affect adolescent sleep duration and quality. Greater exposure to these stressors often leads adolescents to engage in less physical activity and more sedentary, screen-based activities, which are linked to poor sleep outcomes. In contrast, green space is a protective neighborhood feature that may buffer stress, lower risk of exposure to violence and support healthy sleep, although few studies have examined this association with sleep specifically.

While prior studies have focused on where adolescents live, no studies of adolescent sleep have considered neighborhood context dynamically by accounting for all places in which teens spend time. Most urban adolescents spend lots of time outside of their home, limiting our understanding of how their environment impacts sleep. GPS-enabled smartphones offer an innovative opportunity to overcome the limitations of past studies by developing ways to measure adolescent’s total exposure to their neighborhood environments across home, school and other locations where they spend time. We can then gain a better understanding of how environmental factors like crime and greenspace affect teen sleep.

Description

The Get To Sleep Study: Using Mobile Technology to Assess the Impact of Neighborhood Context on Sleep Among Urban Teens

students; sleep; population health; teenagers; mobile technology; technology
students; sleep; population health; teenagers; mobile technology; technology

Insufficient sleep among adolescents is a critical public health concern as it increases risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

Over the course of this year-long pilot study, Dr. Stephanie Mayne and her team will use geographic information systems (GIS) technology to learn more about neighborhood factors impacting teen sleep. GIS is a framework for gathering, mapping and analyzing geographic data such as the locations of crime incidents or parks. The overall objectives of the project will be to: 1) determine the feasibility of using GPS tracking, GIS, and repeated text message surveys over one week for developing ways to measure urban adolescents’ exposure to neighborhood crime, disorder, and green space during their daily activities; and 2) to explore preliminary associations of exposure to these environments with sleep outcomes. The study team will enroll 20 adolescents aged 15-17 from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s urban primary care practices that serve large populations of low-income, Medicaid-enrolled teens who are at higher risk for poor sleep outcomes.

Next Steps

Understanding the factors that impact sleep in adolescence is a key public health challenge that we must address to support sleep and improve health. Through this pilot study, we hope to identify factors associated with insufficient sleep, a growing health concern that is linked with numerous adverse health outcomes among adolescents. We also aim to develop a model for assessing dynamic neighborhood exposures that researchers and public health practitioners can apply to a wide range of health behaviors and outcomes to inform place-based interventions, population health strategies, or clinical assessments to support health among children and teens within many contexts.

This project page was last updated in April 2020.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. The Get To Sleep Study: Using Mobile Technology to Assess the Impact of Neighborhood Context on Sleep Among Urban Teens [Online]. Available at: http://www.policylab.chop.edu. [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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