Sleep Deprivation Steadily Increasing Amongst U.S. Teenagers – Girls More Likely Than Boys To Stay Up Late

A first comprehensive evaluation of recent sleep trends by age and time period for U.S. adolescents has indicated sleep deprivation is increasing acutely among teens.

Sufficient sleep may have long been prescribed as one of the most essential requirements for a healthy life, but the number of hours slept per night has decreased dramatically among teenagers in the United States over the last 20 years. A study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health compiled a report and managed to unearth a few interesting and disturbing facts regarding sleeping patterns of kids in the U.S.

The sleep study, compiled in The Great Sleep Recession: Changes in Sleep Duration Among U.S. Adolescents, 1991-2012, published online in Pediatrics, indicates that female students, racial/ethnic minorities, and students of lower socioeconomic status are especially prone to depriving themselves of the minimum recommended hours of sleep. Though boys too have gradually reduced the hours spent slumbering, males, non-Hispanic white teenagers, and students of higher socioeconomic status haven’t been as deeply affected as their female counterparts.

Overall, the girls are less likely to report regularly getting seven or more hours of sleep each night, as compared to boys. To compile the report, students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades of a nationally representative survey of more than 270,000 adolescents from 1991 to 2012 were asked to report how often they get seven or more hours of sleep.

The proportion of teenagers who regularly got seven hours of sleep was defined as the base frequency of every day or almost every day versus sometimes, rarely, or never. For the sake of maintaining balance and reduce frequency errors, the survey did not take into consideration weekend wake-up and sleep times. It was assumed that sleep patterns very drastically on weekends.

Racial/ethnic minorities and those whose parents had little formal education reported they were less likely to regularly get seven or more hours of sleep, yet they were more likely to report getting adequate sleep. This suggested a glaring mismatch between actual sleep and perceptions of adequate sleep. In simpler terms, teenagers often misjudged the amount of sleep they should get, explained Katherine W. Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and lead author.

“This finding implies that minority and low socioeconomic status adolescents are less accurately judging the adequacy of the sleep they are getting.”

It is the 15-year-olds who are the worst affected, indicated the study. This trend is particularly concerning because it is this age when cognitive, emotional, and psychological development is at full-throttle.

Seven hours per night is two hours less than the nine hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Inadequate sleep has been proven to be the root cause of mental health issues, academic problems, substance abuse, and weight gain. Hence it has now become critical to get your teenagers to hit the sack sooner.

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