CDC Report Says Teens Not Getting Enough Sleep, Engaging in More Risk Behaviors

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report says most teens are not getting enough sleep at night and that brings a number of risks.   Almost 70% of high school students are not getting the recommended hours of sleep on school nights according to the study based on a national Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Lela McKnight-Eily, the study’s lead author, says the insufficient sleep can increase certain risk behaviors such as substance use, feelings of hopelessness and physical fighting.

McKnight-Eily, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at CDC, says there may be many factors affecting the lack of sleep. She says there’s a shift in the circadian rhythm that accompanies puberty that makes teens want to go to bed later and wake up later.  She says in addition, they have  increased access to technology, including cell phones, the internet, and television that’s available all night (Moms and Dads- remember when TV stations “signed off” at night?)

 McKnight-Eily says lack of sleep may affect cognitive ability, perhaps leading to high risk behaviors.  She adds that the substance abuse or depression could be leading to the lack of sleep, or could be a form of self-medication due to the lack of sleep. She says with obesity rising, some teens may have underlying health conditions that are affecting their sleep.

McKnight-Eily says there are ways to improve a teen’s sleep. She says having a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep in a dark and quiet environment, removing distractions from the room, avoiding caffeine and stimulating foods several hours before going to sleep and getting adequate exercise can help.  She says it’s important to recognize this as a significant public health problem.