Are teens getting enough sleep? A new report from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health finds that fewer teenagers than ever are sleeping enough. Researchers investigated the sleep habits of adolescents throughout the last 20 years. They discovered that fewer teens today sleep seven hours or more than teens did in the 1990s. Female students and minorities were among the least likely to get enough sleep. The findings suggest the need for large-scale public health interventions to help teenagers sleep enough.
The data for the study came from a nationally representative survey conducted from 1991 to 2012. Students from grades 8, 10, and 12 reported how frequently they slept seven or more hours per night. The researchers categorized the results based on time periods and demographic information. They did not control for weekday versus weekend sleep and wake times.
The groups least likely to sleep seven or more hours were minorities and students whose parents had limited formal education. Surprisingly, though these groups were the least likely to get enough sleep, they were more likely to report that they slept enough. This suggests a dissonance between actual sleep and the perception of adequate sleep.
The largest decrease in students sleeping seven or more hours per night was found in 15-year-olds. In 1991, 72 percent of 15-year-old students reported sleeping seven or more hours per night. By 2012, only 63 percent of 15-year-olds reported the same.
The results indicate a significant reduction in the number of teens sleeping enough over time, with the percentage of students sleeping seven or more hours declining in waves. The largest waves of decline occurred between 1991 and 1995 and between 1996 and 2000. The sleep disparity in minorities also became more pronounced during these periods.
“Although the underlying reasons for the decreases in hours of sleep are unknown, there has been speculation that increased Internet and social media use and pressures due to the heightened competitiveness of the college admissions process are adding to the problem,” states lead study author Katherine W. Keyes, Ph.D., assistant professor of Epidemiology. She says that the decline in adolescent sleep suggests, “A potentially significant public health concern.”
This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.
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