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Tired Teens More Likely To Engage in Risky Behaviors

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Is your teen getting enough sleep? According to a new study, tired teens are more likely to smoke, drink and get into fights.  They are also at a higher risk for auto crashes. Even one extra hour of sleep can make a big difference!

In a survey of more than 12,000 teens, 68.9 percent reported that they sleep less than eight hours on an average school night. Researchers found that students who reported insufficient sleep were more likely to engage in the health-risk behavior than students who reported sufficient sleep.

The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in Preventive Medicine journal.

Sleep deprived teens were less likely to exercise, more sexually active, and more likely to get into fights.  They also had more thoughts of suicide.

“Insufficient sleep on school nights is common and is associated with participation in health risk behaviors including substance use, fighting, and consideration of suicide,” according to lead author Lela R. McKnight-Eily of the CDC.

“Public health intervention is greatly needed, and the consideration of delayed school start times may hold promise as one effective step in a comprehensive approach to address this problem.”

McKnight-Eily also explained that while previous research revealed the large sleep deficit experienced by many teens, this is the first large-scale national research to associate a variety sleep behaviors among teens with health risk behaviors using Youth Risk Behavior Survey data. Other studies have made this link with some of the risk behaviors studied, but generally they were much smaller or non-national samples.

Researchers analyzed data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Study. Information for the study was gathered from U.S. teens in grades 9-12 from all states and the District of Columbia. Over 12,000 teens responded to questions about their sleep habits and duration of sleep.

The researchers compared answers about sleep with about 11 risky behaviors. The behaviors included drinking sodas with sugar, time spent exercising per week, TV watching time and non-school related computer use, cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use, being currently sexually active, feeling sad or hopeless, fighting, and whether they had considered suicide during the past year.

Kids who had less than eight hours of sleep, on school nights, were more likely to engage in 10 out the 11 health risk behaviors.

Race and ethnicity also played a role in how sleep deprived kids experienced. Hispanic and white students, who reported insufficient sleep, had increased feelings of sadness or hopelessness. The same association wasn’t seen among black teens. Black and Hispanic teens who reported insufficient sleep also tended to exercise less. The same association was not found with white students.

Some of the reasons teens reported for not getting enough sleep were social engagements, recreational activities, academic pressure, as well as biologic changes in the sleep/wake cycle.  The majority of students reported sleeping about 7 hours a night.

According to sleep experts, teens should get about nine hours of sleep a night to feel their best.

While getting enough sleep seems to be a national crisis for adults as well as children, it’s a good idea for families to take some time and discuss how everyone is sleeping. Find out if your teen or younger child is having trouble sleeping. If so, talk to your pediatrician about ways to help your child get a better night’s rest.

Check out what Dr. Sue has to say. Here thoughts as a pediatrician and mom.  More here.

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