Less Sleep, More Risky Behavior in Teens.
Dose-dependent association suggested between sleep duration, unsafe behavior.
High school students who got less sleep on an average night were associated with an increased risk of unsafe behavior, including drinking and drug use, aggressive behavior and self-harm, according to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Compared with teens who slept ≥8 hours, students who slept <6 hours were more than twice as likely to report use of alcohol (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.84-2.19) or other drugs (OR 2.34, 95% CI 2.16-2.52), and nearly twice as likely to report getting into a fight (OR 1.97, 95% CI 1.81-2.15), reported Matthew Weaver, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Additionally, those who slept <6 hours were more than three times as likely to report considering suicide (OR 3.12, 95% CI 2.85-3.41) or attempting suicide (OR 3.39, 95% CI 3.00-3.82) and more than four times as likely to report an attempted suicide that resulted in treatment (OR 4.24, 95% CI 3.53-5.10) compared to their peers who slept ≥8 hours, the authors wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.
Students who slept <6 hours were also more likely to engage in the following behavior than their peers who slept ≥8 hours:
- * Risk taking while driving: OR 1.75 (95% CI 1.61-1.91)
- * Tobacco use: OR 1.94 (95% CI 1.80-2.10)
- * Risky sexual activity: OR 1.65 (95% CI 1.53-1.78)
- * Carry a weapon: OR 1.95 (95% CI, 1.77-2.14)
“We’ve previously studied college students and found sleep duration and regularity were factors in mood, metabolism, and general health, but among this younger group there hasn’t been as much research,” Weaver told MedPage Today. “Our analysis is different because we’ve performed the study across a longer time period and assessed a wider array of risk-taking behaviors than have been explored in previous studies.”
Prior research found that an average of 8 to 10 hours of sleep is ideal for adolescents and that fewer hours can result in altered judgment and may negatively affect learning and development patterns, the authors said. But they found that other data indicated more than 70% of high school students average less than 8 hours of sleep per night.
This study collected data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from February 2007 to May 2015. There were 67,615 total surveys in the data set. Of the participants, 48.8% were girls and the majority were white (58.4%), with 18.3% students reporting they were Hispanic or Latino, 12.4% black or African American, and 8.2% as “other race or ethnicity.”
The authors found that only 20,538 students (30.4%) reported getting ≥8 hours of sleep on an average school night. Moreover, the portion of students reporting <8 hours of sleep on an average night over the study period increased from 68.9% in 2007 to 71.9% in 2015, they said.
Weaver said that although these data do not show a causal relationship, he and his team did control for confounding factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, and year of survey. In the future, he would like to see research that reveals what causes these sleep deficiencies, and how improving sleep hygiene may improve the safety, well being, and mood of high school students, he said.
“The most important thing is to enable students sufficient time to get the sleep they need,” Weaver said. “Although some factors are regulated by schools, parents can be cognizant of the timing of afterschool activities and homework to make sure students can achieve 8 to 10 hours before they have to wake up in the morning.”
But despite the factors Weaver and his team controlled for, persisting confounding variables may exist that lead to bidirectional associations, he said.
Other limitations cited by the authors include social desirability and recall bias, due to the self-reported nature of the data.