Teens need 9-10 hours of sleepSleepy teenagers are a familiar sight for most parents, but it turns out that not sleeping enough is a big problem for American high school students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that teenagers sleep for nine to ten hours each night. A new study finds that less than 10 percent of teens sleep the recommended amount. Because sleep plays a critical role in attention, learning, and overall health, not sleeping enough is a critical issue for today’s teens.

The researchers used data from government surveys conducted as part of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Program in the years 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013. The program surveyed students in grades 9 through 12 about their weekday sleep habits.

Less than ten percent of teens reported sleeping as much as the CDC recommends. As teens age, they report sleeping even less: by grade 12, 95 percent of the teens reported sleeping less than nine hours per night. Girls were more likely to not sleep enough than boys: seven percent of girls reported sleeping fewer than nine hours per night, compared to approximately nine percent of boys. Girls were also more likely to sleep fewer than five hours per night than boys.

The findings also illustrate that teens of color are less likely to get enough sleep. Black teens, both boys and girls, were more likely to sleep five or few hours per night. Twenty percent of black teens routinely slept five or few hours each night. Additionally, fifteen percent of Hispanic girls and 12 percent of Hispanic boys routinely slept five or fewer hours each night.

The researchers explain that it is difficult to blame teens’ lack of sleep on just one factor. Lead study author Charles Basch, professor of health and education at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University states that, “For some children it’s too much homework, for some it’s health problems like asthma. For others it may be anxiety or depression, or the prescription medications they are taking for such conditions. Recreational drugs can be a factor, as can having electronics in the bedroom.”

To help your teen sleep the recommended 9 to 10 hours, talk to her or him about setting a curfew and a regular bedtime. Limit screen time for an hour before bed and make sure that your teen exercises regularly.

This research is published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

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