Is Your Teen Getting Enough Sleep?

Too little sleep among teens may increase their risk of health problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Not getting enough sleep can have serious effects on physical and mental health. This is particularly true for teens, whose bodies and minds are still developing.

Not getting enough sleep can interfere with teens' emotional well-being and how frequently they choose to take risks. Yet a recent study found that teens are not getting enough sleep, especially black teens and males.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that teens get eight to nine hours of sleep each night.

The teens in this study, however, were getting an average of six to seven hours of sleep each night.

"Ensure your teen gets enough sleep."

The study, led by Karen Matthews, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, looked at how much sleep teens across different racial and socioeconomic groups get each night.

The authors gathered information about the sleep habits of 250 healthy public high school students who came from both lower and middle class families.

The students had an average age of 15, were about evenly split between males and females, and included 57 percent black students.

For one week, the teens wore actigraphs, devices which measure how much a person moves or is still, to approximate how much sleep the teens got each night.

In addition, the teens kept track of their amount of sleep and how well they felt they had slept.

They also filled out questionnaires that asked about how sleepy they felt during the day and how long it took them to fall asleep.

Overall, the students slept an average of six hours each weeknight based on the actigraphs' data and an average of 6.8 hours each weeknight based on the teens' sleep journals.

These averages fell within a range of an hour more or an hour less across all the participants.

On the weekends, the teens got an average of 7.4 hours of sleep based on the actigraphs and 8.7 hours based on their sleep journals.

However, the researchers discovered differences between males and females and between black and white teens.

Black teens and males, for example, tended to get less sleep than white teens or females and had more fragmented sleep, which means they frequently woke up in the night.

Meanwhile, females more often reported feeling as though they didn't sleep well and that they felt sleep during the day, compared to males.

Even after the researchers adjusted their calculations to account for differences in age, amount of physical activity, weight and whether a teen smoked or not, they still found these differences between the sexes and races.

The researchers pointed out that black males got the least amount of sleep in this study, which could increase their risk for various health conditions.

The authors also recommended that pediatricians ask teens about how much sleep they're getting and whether they feel as though they sleep well each night.

William Kohler, MD, the medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Fla., agreed that this study reveals how important it is for health care providers to screen patients, particularly adolescents, regarding adequate sleep.

"Health care providers need to ask about both the quality and quantity of sleep because both of them can cause significant problems as far as our functioning goes," Dr. Kohler said.

The study was published April 21 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 21, 2014
Last Updated:
May 1, 2014