Today’s American teens are getting a whole lot less sleep than they did in the 90s according to a new study. Too little sleep makes focusing difficult and depletes one’s energy. As a result, school performance often suffers and unhealthy and/or unwise decisions are much easier to make.
Just 63 percent of 15-year-olds reported getting seven or more hours of sleep a night in 2012. That number is down from 72 percent in 1991, according to the study.
Between the ages of 13 and 18, teens getting 7 hours or more of sleep a night plummets. At 13, roughly two-thirds of teens get at least seven hours of sleep a night; by 18 that percentage drops to about one-third.
"After age 16, the majority are not meeting the recommended guidelines," said study author Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.
Why is it so important that teens get enough sleep? A lack of sleep can impact just about every part of their life. Hormones are escalating, social interactions are fragile, school demands are heightened, self-image is developing and many begin testing boundaries with parents, teachers and each other. It can be a rugged time for teens and those around them.
For the study, researchers from Columbia University looked at sleep data from a national survey of more than 270,000 teens from 1991 to 2012. Each year, teens reported how often they got seven or more hours of sleep, as well as how often they got less sleep than they need.
The most recent recommendation from the National Sleep Foundation says teens aged 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours a night and people aged 18 to 25 need seven to nine hours.
The largest declines in those getting enough sleep occurred between 1991 through 2000; then the problem plateaued, Keyes said.
Researchers also found that girls were less likely to get an adequate amount of sleep compared to boys.
So what’s causing the decline? There a several theories about what may be contributing to this downward slide in teen sleep.
Keyes did not have access to information about the teens' use of electronic media, a factor often blamed for lack of sleep as teens text, check social media, play video games and work on laptops late into the night. However, that might be a factor, she said.
"On an individual level, excessive use of technology may impair an adolescent's ability to sleep," Keyes said.
Caffeine may also be a culprit. It’s estimated that about 30 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks which are packed with caffeine. Many teens drink specialty coffees as well.
Another issue may be early school start times. Some sleep disorder experts believe that starting school – even an hour later- could help teens get more valuable sleep. Starting school, for instance at 8:30 a.m., is an approach favored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Other studies have noted that a lack of sleep is linked with many other teen health problems including obesity, car accidents, depression and a drop in school performance.
When kids are younger, parents are more likely to set limits on bedtime behavior as well as bedtimes. Once kids reach their teens, some of those limits may get a little lax, but this is the time when they are needed most.
Parents still have the authority to set a bedtime and require that computers, tablets and phones are off at least an hour before bedtime. Many kids (and adults) are addicted to their smartphones, so it’s a tough rule to set; it takes a strong commitment and a good example for it to work.
Lack of sleep is hard on everyone, but teens really need the extra help to stay healthy and function well in school. It has such a big impact not only on their present but for their future as well.
Source: Kathleen Doheny, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150216/us-teens-getting-less-sleep-than-ever