More Studies Show that Teens are Sleeping Less


I often call my three-year-old my teenager, because it’s almost impossible to drag him out of bed in the morning. Unlike my friend’s little ones, who seem to wake at the crack of dawn, my son just loves to sleep – no big surprise considering how much energy he burns through while awake! 

The stereotype of the teenager who spends most of his or her time sleeping, may be untrue. A new study has found that teens are increasingly sleep deprived, not sleeping in until midday at every opportunity like my brothers did when they were teens. 

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health tracked how much U.S. teens slept for the past 20 years. They found that the numbers have decreased over time. Female students, racial and ethnic minorities, and students of lower socioeconomic status, were the least likely to report getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), teens function at their best when they obtain eight to ten hours of sleep each night. 

Adolescent sleep declined over the 20 years recorded by the survey. The largest decrease in the number of adolescents getting seven or more hours of sleep every night was among 15-year-olds. In 1991, 72 percent of this age group regularly got seven or more hours of sleep. By 2012, this figure had fallen to 63 percent.

Without enough sleep, the ability to think and reason is impaired, and teens become more likely to have mood swings. Lack of sleep is also associated with mental health issues, weight gain, academic problems and substance abuse. Students suffer both during exams and on the sports field. Lead author Dr. Katherine W. Keys said that although the study did not address the reasons for the decline in sleep, factors such as increased internet and social media use and the pressure of the competitive college admissions process may be factors. This would fit with other studies that have found that going to bed with an internet-connected device like a smartphone or tablet computer results in less sleep. 

Parents can make sure their teens get enough sleep by sticking to predetermined bedtimes and insisting that they hand over their internet-enabled devices before going to bed. Computers should stay in open spaces, not bedrooms. Some schools are also experimenting with later start times to allow teens to get the sleep they need. The teenager that’s impossible to wake up may be a thing of the past, but there’s no reason why teens can’t get at least eight hours of sleep per night.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Megane Callewaert

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