Teen Sleep Deprivation May Affect Behavior, Academics

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May 15, 2002

Contact: Megan Fellman at (847) 491-3115 or at
fellman@northwestern.edu

Teen Sleep Deprivation May Affect Behavior, Academics

EVANSTON, ILL.— Research has clarified what most parents already know about the sleep patterns of adolescents—they seem to have an unlimited capacity to sleep late on weekends. In a study presented April 18 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, Northwestern University researchers propose that teenagers need more sleep than they may be getting, and that sleeping late on weekends may be a result of relative sleep deprivation during the week.

“Previous research has indicated that sleep-wake habits of teenagers vary from those of adults and younger children, and that many adolescents experience chronic partial sleep deprivation,” said study author Kathryn Reid, PhD, a research assistant professor at Northwestern’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology. “We found that teenagers sleep, on average, 8.5 hours during the week and more than 9.5 hours on weekends.”

Dr. Reid and colleagues studied 729 young people aged 12 to 17, who were admitted to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. They found that, while onset of sleep/waking times were later among older teens, a longer duration was consistent among all subjects compared to previous data. Nearly half of the study subjects reported significant daytime sleepiness.

Other research has suggested that in this age group, sleep deprivation may play a role in lower grades and with behavioral problems. Changing school start times to later has been shown to improve attendance in this age group. The later wake times of the older teenagers in the current study further suggests that there may benefit to starting school later. However, this is a complex issue that needs to be studied further.

It is likely that further analysis of sleep data from this study may reveal actual relationships between sleep times and other measures of mental health, academic performance, and behavior.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health.

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