A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms what many have suspected: Insufficient sleep has potentially dangerous results for adolescents and teens.  These effects can include learning difficulties and impaired judgement. Sleep-deprived teens are at a higher risk for obesity, diabetes, mental health and attention problems.  Teens who get insufficient sleep take risks that can result in traffic crashes—a leading cause of death in adolescents.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended that children aged 6–12 years should regularly sleep 9–12 hours per 24 hours and teenagers aged 13–18 years should sleep 8–10 hours per 24 hours.Teens who sleep less than eight hours a night are considered sleep-deprived, yet about 72% of high school students get less than the recommended amount of sleep during the week. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that that teens who do not get sufficient sleep are more likely to engage in risky behaviors including smoking, drinking alcohol, and driving under the influence.

Furthermore, those who sleep less than six hours a night engaged in risky behavior much more than those who sleep eight hours or more.  “Researchers examined a national data sample of risk-taking behaviors and sleep duration self-reported by high school students over eight years and found an association between sleep duration and personal safety risk-taking actions.” They even had an increased potential of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts than their age-mate who slept more.

The data are clear and very disturbing: Chronic sleep loss and associated sleepiness and daytime impairments in adolescence are a serious threat to the academic success, health, and safety of our nation’s youth and an important public health issue. 

The use of smart phones and social media at night contribute to these poor sleep patterns.Scientific studies have pinpointed blue light as form of light that’s especially aggressive in triggering sleeplessness.  Parents should clearly monitor their teens’ sleep patterns and cell phone use.

No smart phones in the bedroom at night would be the first step to adjusting sleep patterns.  Adjusting the school day to align with teen sleep patterns would also alleviate some of the problems. Start School later has the following mission: Promoting sleep health and raising public awareness about the relationship of sleep and developmentally appropriate school hours to physical, psychological, and educational well-being. ​

Now the questions are: What are YOU doing to assist your teen in promoting sleep health? And what is   your SCHOOL DISTRICT doing?