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More Teens Than Ever Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

Summary: Researchers report teens may be sacrificing sleep in order to spend more time on smartphones and tablets. Sleep deprivation can impact mental and physical health.

Source: San Diego State University.

If you’re a young person who can’t seem to get enough sleep, you’re not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night than older generations. One possible reason? Young people are trading their sleep for smartphone time.

Most sleep experts agree that adolescents need 9 hours of sleep each night to be engaged and productive students; less than 7 hours is considered to be insufficient sleep. A peek into any bleary-eyed classroom in the country will tell you that many youths are sleep-deprived, but it’s unclear whether young people today are in fact sleeping less.

To find out, Twenge, along with psychologist Zlatan Krizan and graduate student Garrett Hisler–both at Iowa State University in Ames–examined data from two long-running, nationally representative, government-funded surveys of more than 360,000 teenagers. The Monitoring the Future survey asked U.S. students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades how frequently they got at least 7 hours of sleep, while the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey asked 9th-12th-grade students how many hours of sleep they got on an average school night.

Combining and analyzing data from both surveys, the researchers found that about 40% of adolescents in 2015 slept less than 7 hours a night, which is 58% more than in 1991 and 17% more than in 2009.

Delving further into the data, the researchers learned that the more time young people reported spending online, the less sleep they got. Teens who spent 5 hours a day online were 50% more likely to not sleep enough than their peers who only spent an hour online each day.

Beginning around 2009, smartphone use skyrocketed, which Twenge believes might be responsible for the 17% bump between 2009 and 2015 in the number of students sleeping 7 hours or less. Not only might teens be using their phones when they would otherwise be sleeping, the authors note, but previous research suggests the light wavelengths emitted by smartphones and tablets can interfere with the body’s natural sleep-wake rhythm. The researchers reported their findings in the journal Sleep Medicine.

“Teens’ sleep began to shorten just as the majority started using smartphones,” said Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. “It’s a very suspicious pattern.”

Students might compensate for that lack of sleep by dozing off during daytime hours, adds Krizan.

“Our body is going to try to meet its sleep needs, which means sleep is going to interfere or shove its nose in other spheres of our lives,” he said. “Teens may catch up with naps on the weekend or they may start falling asleep at school.”

 Image shows a teen sleeping.

Students might compensate for that lack of sleep by dozing off during daytime hours, adds Krizan. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

For many, smartphones and tablets are an indispensable part of everyday life, so they key is moderation, Twenge stresses. Limiting usage to 2 hours a day should leave enough time for proper sleep, she says. And that’s valuable advice for young and old alike.

“Given the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health, both teens and adults should consider whether their smartphone use is interfering with their sleep,” she says. “It’s particularly important not to use screen devices right before bed, as they might interfere with falling asleep.”

About this neuroscience research article

Source: Michael Price – San Diego State University
Publisher: Content organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Abstract for “Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among U.S. adolescents 2009-2015 and links to new media screen time” by Jean M. Twenge, Zlatan Krizan, and Garrett Hisler in Sleep Medicine. Published online September 15 2017 doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.08.013

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
San Diego State University “More Teens Than Ever Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 19 October 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/teens-sleep-7774/>.
San Diego State University (2017, October 19). More Teens Than Ever Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved October 19, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/teens-sleep-7774/
San Diego State University “More Teens Than Ever Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep.” http://neurosciencenews.com/teens-sleep-7774/ (accessed October 19, 2017).

Abstract

Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among U.S. adolescents 2009-2015 and links to new media screen time

Study Objectives
Insufficient sleep among adolescents carries significant health risks, making it important to determine social factors that change sleep duration. We sought to determine whether the self-reported sleep duration of U.S. adolescents changed between 2009 and 2015 and to examine whether new media screen time (relative to other factors) might be responsible for changes in sleep.

Methods
We drew from yearly, nationally representative surveys of sleep duration and time use among adolescents conducted since 1991 (Monitoring the Future) and 2007 (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control; total N = 369,595).

Results
Compared to 2009, adolescents in 2015 were 16% to 17% more likely to report sleeping less than 7 hours a night on most nights, with an increase in short sleep duration after 2011-2013. New media screen time (electronic device use, social media, and reading news online) increased over this time period and was associated with increased odds of short sleep duration, with a clear exposure-response relationship for electronic devices after 2 or more hours a day of use. Other activities linked to short sleep duration, such as homework time, working for pay, and TV watching, were relatively stable or decreased over this time period, making it unlikely they caused the sudden increase in short sleep duration.

Conclusions

Increased new media screen time may be involved in the recent increases (from 35% to 41% and from 37% to 43%) in short sleep among adolescents. Public health interventions should consider electronic device use as a target of intervention to improve adolescent health.

“Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among U.S. adolescents 2009-2015 and links to new media screen time” by Jean M. Twenge, Zlatan Krizan, and Garrett Hisler in Sleep Medicine. Published online September 15 2017 doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.08.013

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