Judith Owens MD

Judith Owens, MD, MPH

Director, Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders

Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School

    Contact: 781-216-2570
  • Fax: 781-216-2518

"I am deeply committed to providing evidence-based information about the importance of sleep to health, safety and performance to a wide variety of audiences."

Medical Services

Specialties

  • Sleep Disorders

Departments

  • Neurology

Languages

  • English

Programs

  • Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center
To schedule an appointment: Call 781-216-2570 or Request an Appointment
Judith Owens MD

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a doctor. 

My mother was a strong role model for me, and encouraged me to be anything I could imagine. I never felt that because I was a girl I was limited or that I couldn't pursue science.

I enrolled in a combined undergraduate and medical school program at Brown University, completing both in seven years. Even as a biology major, I loved the humanities and still do—I try to make time to read a history book or biography before I leave for work in the morning. I almost became an obstetrician, and then a psychiatrist, and later pursued a social-science degree in maternal and child health. I have spent much of my career in New England, some as a general pediatrician, and I know what it is like to treat 8,000 ear infections each winter! My broad-ranging intellectual interests are central to who I am and how I approach care, research and advocacy.

I became further solidified by how sleep affects children's health when my own daughter was in high school. The headmaster of her school wanted to shift the school's start time from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.—as a pediatrician and scientist, I suggested studying the effects of that change. The results were remarkable and launched me on a path to advocate for healthy sleep habits for all kids, backed by solid evidence-based research.

As the director of the hospital's Sleep Center, I believe in helping all families struggling with a good night sleep, whether the problem is big or small. I take an individual approach to each family's situation and help parents and kids reach their goals. Changing poor sleep habits can be hard, but the evidence is clear that sleep is key to performance, health and safety. 

Experience and Education

Education

Undergraduate

Brown University, 1977

Providence, Rhode Island

Medical School

Brown Medical School, 1980

Providence, Rhode Island

Internship

Pediatrics-Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 1981

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Residency

Pediatrics-Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 1983

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fellowship

Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics-Minneapolis Children's Medical Center, 1985

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Fellowship

Child Psychiatry-Bradley Hospital, 1987

East Providence, Rhode Island

Graduate School

Maternal & Child Health-University of Minnesota, 1986

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Professional History

I am guided in my professional life by the idea of advocacy, for my own patients and for children in general.

In particular, I am a champion for healthy school start times for all students. Conclusive, evidence-based research shows that better sleep means improved performance, higher executive functioning, fewer car accidents and improved overall health in kids. I am the author of the American Academy of Pediatrics 2014 policy statement on the importance of later school start times for teenagers and I advocate on the topic from Massachusetts to India.

 

Sleep medicine didn't really exists as a field when I graduated from medical school in 1980. We were not trained to think that children had sleep problems. But as a young pediatrician, I kept seeing all these kids coming in with disordered sleep. I founded one of the country's first sleep clinics for children in 1993.

The Sleep Center at Boston Children's Hospital was one of the first places to take the connection between sleep and health seriously. Now as the center's director, I am committed to expanding our multidisciplinary, evidence-based approach and reaching more families trying to get a good night's rest.

I am also an expert in learning, attention and behavior in children, having directed programs in behavioral pediatrics over the past 20 years at Hasbro Children's Hospital and Brown Medical School in Providence, RI. The connection between ADHD and sleep is of particular interest in my practice.

I completed medical school at Brown University, residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and fellowships in developmental and behavioral pediatrics, child psychiatry and psychiatry and human behavior. I hold a master's degree in maternal and child health from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

I am the editor in chief of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, one of the sleep field's most respected publications. I am also on the governing council of the World Association of Sleep Medicine.  In 2006 I was awarded the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's Excellence in Education Award, and in 2012, was honored to receive the AASM Mark O. Hatfield Public Policy and Advocacy Award.

Research

Much of my research focuses on connections between sleep and behavior in children and adolescents, a field that was understudied when I started my career and to which my work has made a substantial contribution.

One of my first major papers grew out of the clinical observation that many kids who had TV sets in their bedrooms seemed to have disordered sleep. I authored one of the first studies linking TV viewing habits with sleep problems, which was published in Pediatrics.

In 2000, my colleagues and I designed the first and now most widely used sleep habits questionnaire for children, which has been translated into over a dozen languages and has been used in over 200 research projects worldwide. This has increased the ability of general pediatricians to flag sleep disturbances in their patients. I have reported on environmental factors influencing sleep -- including lead and second hand smoke exposures -- as well as the sleep problems specific to children with neuro-developmental disabilities, epilepsy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and ADHD, among other conditions.

My work in the field of school start times has changed policies in school districts around the country. Scientists have documented the circadian rhythm shifts that take place in adolescence -- but few had examined the before and after effects of changing school start times to reflect that understanding. My research showed conclusively that delaying school starts led to improved outcomes on metrics including attendance, depression, health center visits and executive functioning.

My research resulted in a 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement endorsing the health benefits of later school start times. Currently, with the help of a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, I am collecting outcomes data on delayed school starts in Fairfax County, Virginia, where 27 high schools there have shifted their start times from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m.

My research has led to several seminal publications that shaped our understanding of sleep, attention and behavior and have paved the way for policy changes and potential new treatments.

These include:

Owens-Stively J, Frank N, Smith A, Arrigan M, Spirito A, Hagino O. Child temperament, parenting style and daytime behavior in childhood sleep disorders. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 1997;18(5):314-321

Owens J, Maxim R, Nobile C, McGuinn M, Alario A, Msall M. Television viewing habits and sleep disturbances in school-aged children. Pediatrics, 1999;104(3):e 27

Owens-Stively J, Oppipari L, Nobile C, Spirito A. Sleep and daytime behaviors in children aged children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 2000; 21(1):27-36

Owens J, Nobile C, McGuinn M, Spirito A. The Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire: Construction and validation of a sleep survey for school-aged children. Sleep, 2000;23(8):1043-51

Owens J. The ADHD and sleep conundrum: A review. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, August 2005, Vol 26 (4); 312-322.

Owens J, Belon K, Moss P. The Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, July 2010; 164(7); 608-14.

Boergers J, Gable C, Owens J. Later school start time is associated with improved sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents. J Dev Behav Pediatr, 2014; 35(1):11-7.

Owens J, Adolescent Sleep Working Group and Committee on Adolescence. School Start Times for Adolescents AAP Policy Statement. Pediatrics, Sep 2014; 134(3):642-649.

Owens J., Mindell J., Baylor A. The Impact of Energy Drink and Caffeinated Beverage Use by Children and Adolescents on Sleep, Mood and Performance. Nutrition Reviews, 2014; 72:65-71.

Owens J, Mindell J. Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens, Marlowe and Company, October 2005.

Mindell J, Owens J. A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems in Children and Adolescents, Second Edition. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA, August 2009.

Publications

Publications powered by Harvard Catalyst Profiles
  1. Wahlstrom KL, Owens JA. School start time effects on adolescent learning and academic performance, emotional health and behaviour. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2017 Nov; 30(6):485-490.
  2. Owens J. Editorial. Behav Sleep Med. 2017 Nov-Dec; 15(6):421-422.
  3. Owens J, Troxel W, Wahlstrom K. Commentary on Healthy School Start Times. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017 May 15; 13(5):761.
  4. Owens JA, Weiss MR. Insufficient sleep in adolescents: causes and consequences. Minerva Pediatr. 2017 Aug; 69(4):326-336.
  5. Owens J, Wang G, Lewin D, Skora E, Baylor A. Association Between Short Sleep Duration and Risk Behavior Factors in Middle School Students. Sleep. 2017 Jan 01; 40(1).
  6. Owens JA, Dearth-Wesley T, Lewin D, Gioia G, Whitaker RC. Self-Regulation and Sleep Duration, Sleepiness, and Chronotype in Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2016 Dec; 138(6).
  7. Owens J, Weiss M, Nordbrock E, Mattingly G, Wigal S, Greenhill LL, Chang WW, Childress A, Kupper RJ, Adjei A. Effect of Aptensio XR (Methylphenidate HCl Extended-Release) Capsules on Sleep in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2016 Dec; 26(10):873-881.
  8. Maski K, Owens JA. Insomnia, parasomnias, and narcolepsy in children: clinical features, diagnosis, and management. Lancet Neurol. 2016 Oct; 15(11):1170-81.
  9. Redline S, Baker-Goodwin S, Bakker JP, Epstein M, Hanes S, Hanson M, Harrington Z, Johnston JC, Kapur VK, Keepnews D, Kontos E, Lowe A, Owens J, Page K, Rothstein N. Patient Partnerships Transforming Sleep Medicine Research and Clinical Care: Perspectives from the Sleep Apnea Patient-Centered Outcomes Network. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016 Jul 15; 12(7):1053-8.
  10. Owens J. Editorial. Behav Sleep Med. 2016; 14(1):1.
  11. Show all
  12. Owens J. Editor-in-Chief Commentary. Behav Sleep Med. 2015; 13(5):347-8.
  13. Owens JA, Mindell J, Baylor A. Effect of energy drink and caffeinated beverage consumption on sleep, mood, and performance in children and adolescents. Nutr Rev. 2014 Oct; 72 Suppl 1:65-71.
  14. Baumann CR, Mignot E, Lammers GJ, Overeem S, Arnulf I, Rye D, Dauvilliers Y, Honda M, Owens JA, Plazzi G, Scammell TE. Challenges in diagnosing narcolepsy without cataplexy: a consensus statement. Sleep. 2014 Jun 01; 37(6):1035-42.
  15. Owens JA. Sleep and technology: not always strange bedfellows. Behav Sleep Med. 2014; 12(3):255-6.
  16. Boergers J, Gable CJ, Owens JA. Later school start time is associated with improved sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2014 Jan; 35(1):11-7.
  17. Owens JA. Associations between preschoolers' daytime and nighttime sleep parameters by El-Sheikh, Arsiwalla, Staton, Dyer, and Vaughn. Behav Sleep Med. 2013 Apr; 11(2):105-7.
  18. Owens JA. A letter to the editor in defense of sleep recommendations. Pediatrics. 2012 May; 129(5):987-8; author reply 989-91; discussion 988-9.
  19. Viorritto EN, Kureshi SA, Owens JA. Narcolepsy in the pediatric population. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2012 Apr; 12(2):175-81.
  20. Owens JA. Update in pediatric sleep medicine. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2011 Nov; 17(6):425-30.
  21. Owens JA, Jones C, Nash R. Caregivers' knowledge, behavior, and attitudes regarding healthy sleep in young children. J Clin Sleep Med. 2011 Aug 15; 7(4):345-50.
  22. Owens JA, Jones C. Parental knowledge of healthy sleep in young children: results of a primary care clinic survey. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2011 Jul-Aug; 32(6):447-53.
  23. Owens JA, Mindell JA. Pediatric insomnia. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2011 Jun; 58(3):555-69.
  24. Owens JA. Etiologies and evaluation of sleep disturbances in adolescence. Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2010 Dec; 21(3):430-45, vii-viii.
  25. Arbuckle R, Abetz L, Durmer JS, Ivanenko A, Owens JA, Croenlein J, Bolton K, Moore A, Allen RP, Walters AS, Picchietti DL. Development of the Pediatric Restless Legs Syndrome Severity Scale (P-RLS-SS): a patient-reported outcome measure of pediatric RLS symptoms and impact. Sleep Med. 2010 Oct; 11(9):897-906.
  26. Owens JA, Rosen CL, Mindell JA, Kirchner HL. Use of pharmacotherapy for insomnia in child psychiatry practice: A national survey. Sleep Med. 2010 Aug; 11(7):692-700.
  27. Owens JA, Belon K, Moss P. Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Jul; 164(7):608-14.
  28. Sagheri D, Wiater A, Steffen P, Owens JA. Applying principles of good practice for translation and cross-cultural adaptation of sleep-screening instruments in children. Behav Sleep Med. 2010; 8(3):151-6.
  29. Owens JA, Moturi S. Pharmacologic treatment of pediatric insomnia. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2009 Oct; 18(4):1001-16.
  30. Owens JA. A clinical overview of sleep and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 May; 18(2):92-102.
  31. Owens JA. Neurocognitive and behavioral impact of sleep disordered breathing in children. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2009 May; 44(5):417-22.
  32. Jan JE, Owens JA, Weiss MD, Johnson KP, Wasdell MB, Freeman RD, Ipsiroglu OS. Sleep hygiene for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Pediatrics. 2008 Dec; 122(6):1343-50.
  33. Owens JA. Sleep disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2008 Oct; 10(5):439-44.
  34. Owens JA, Mehlenbeck R, Lee J, King MM. Effect of weight, sleep duration, and comorbid sleep disorders on behavioral outcomes in children with sleep-disordered breathing. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008 Apr; 162(4):313-21.
  35. Li Y, Jin H, Owens JA, Hu C. The association between sleep and injury among school-aged children in rural China: a case-control study. Sleep Med. 2008 Jan; 9(2):142-8.
  36. Meltzer LJ, Mindell JA, Owens JA, Byars KC. Use of sleep medications in hospitalized pediatric patients. Pediatrics. 2007 Jun; 119(6):1047-55.
  37. Boergers J, Hart C, Owens JA, Streisand R, Spirito A. Child sleep disorders: associations with parental sleep duration and daytime sleepiness. J Fam Psychol. 2007 Mar; 21(1):88-94.
  38. Owens JA, Mindell JA. Pediatric sleep medicine: priorities for research, patient care, policy and education. J Clin Sleep Med. 2006 Jan 15; 2(1):77-88.
  39. Owens JA, Stahl J, Patton A, Reddy U, Crouch M. Sleep practices, attitudes, and beliefs in inner city middle school children: a mixed-methods study. Behav Sleep Med. 2006; 4(2):114-34.
  40. Sangal RB, Owens JA, Sangal J. Patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder without observed apneic episodes in sleep or daytime sleepiness have normal sleep on polysomnography. Sleep. 2005 Sep; 28(9):1143-8.
  41. Owens JA, Babcock D, Blumer J, Chervin R, Ferber R, Goetting M, Glaze D, Ivanenko A, Mindell J, Rappley M, Rosen C, Sheldon S. The use of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of pediatric insomnia in primary care: rational approaches. A consensus meeting summary. J Clin Sleep Med. 2005 Jan 15; 1(1):49-59.
  42. Owens JA, Dalzell V. Use of the 'BEARS' sleep screening tool in a pediatric residents' continuity clinic: a pilot study. Sleep Med. 2005 Jan; 6(1):63-9.
  43. Owens JA, Fernando S, Mc Guinn M. Sleep disturbance and injury risk in young children. Behav Sleep Med. 2005; 3(1):18-31.
  44. Owens JA. Introduction: Culture and sleep in children. Pediatrics. 2005 Jan; 115(1 Suppl):201-3.
  45. Liu X, Liu L, Owens JA, Kaplan DL. Sleep patterns and sleep problems among schoolchildren in the United States and China. Pediatrics. 2005 Jan; 115(1 Suppl):241-9.
  46. Owens JA. The electronic sandman: the impact of the media on adolescent sleep. Sleep. 2004 Feb 01; 27(1):15-6.
  47. Owens JA, Rosen CL, Mindell JA. Medication use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: results of a survey of community-based pediatricians. Pediatrics. 2003 May; 111(5 Pt 1):e628-35.
  48. Bloom BJ, Owens JA, McGuinn M, Nobile C, Schaeffer L, Alario AJ. Sleep and its relationship to pain, dysfunction, and disease activity in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2002 Jan; 29(1):169-73.
To schedule an appointment: Call 781-216-2570 or Request an Appointment

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