Sleep deprived teenagers: controlled bedtimes can help.

21 Jan Sleep deprived teenagers: controlled bedtimes can help.

Teenagers are constantly complaining about not getting enough sleep. The ongoing consensus is that they simply do not get enough sleep due to going to bed late and requiring to be awake early in order to be at school on time. Adding to this, the ever growing homework load, too many extracurricular activities, phone use right before bed, and too much caffeine consumption can also be to blame for the increased daytime tiredness.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have found a very simple solution to this problem: a clear bedtime that is enforced and adhered to regularly. A study was conducted looking at the effect of this bedtime by enlisting both teenagers and parents. Teenagers were required to keep twice-daily sleep diary entries over seven days collecting data such as sleep duration, daytime energy levels, and symptoms of depression. Parents were required to keep information about the enforcement of sleep related rules and bedtimes in the home.

Key findings for this study showed that parent enforced bedtimes, coinciding with later start times at school, are the greatest predictors of sleep duration, daytime energy level, and depressive symptoms. Over 50% of parents reported no enforced bedtime rules which is consistent with previous research on the same topic. And finally, to the surprise of the researchers, caffeine consumption and phone usage prior to sleep did not significant affect the teenagers’ sleep duration during the course of the study.

In an attempt to solve the issue, in 2014, the American Academy of Paediatrics responded by urging schools to begin school no earlier than 8:30am, especially for those students in middle school and high school. To date, only about 14% of US high schools actually changed the start time as recommended, which only strengthens the support for parents to do their part.

A teenager needs roughly 8.5-9.5 hours’ worth of sleep each night, as reported by the Division of Paediatric Sleep Medicine at Rochester, so parents determining the ideal bed time needs to take both the needed length of time and the required wake up time into consideration all while attempting to work collaboratively with the teenager to maintain their autonomy.

The research has highlighted a very clear connection between teenager sleep quality and the impending daytime tiredness and bedtime. Ensuring the teenager get enough sleep falls on whether when they go to sleep and when school begins for the day. If one is too late, ideally, the other needs to adjust accordingly though it’s much easier to adjust for school start times instead of vice versa.