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Teens, Sunlight and Sleep

Teens, Sunlight and SleepTwo new studies out this week demonstrate the importance of teens getting enough sunlight and sleep. Staying up all night — and not worrying about sleep until later — can come back to haunt you for numerous reasons. Fatigue leads to poor school performance and general crankiness (above and beyond your normal crankiness). Lack of sleep may also shrink your brain as well as your memory. And sleep problems in children have been linked to ADHD.

Researchers have studied this behavior and now believe insufficient daily morning light exposure contributes to teenagers not getting enough sleep:

“These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardized tests. We are starting to call this the teenage night owl syndrome.”

No surprises there — a research study demonstrates what any parent already knows. Teens who sleep through the morning might be depriving themselves of much-needed sunlight.

But here’s where things get interesting.

Lack of sleep not only impacts the person who’s nodding off behind the desk, desperately trying to stay awake until the bell rings. It can also impact you and I if we happen to be on the same road as the sleep-deprived teen. Sleep-deprived teens are at significantly greater risk for a motor vehicle accident compared to non-sleep deprived teens:

Researchers found adolescent drivers were twice as likely to have had a crash if they experienced sleepiness while driving or reported having bad sleep.

Eighty of the 339 students had already crashed at least once, and 15 percent of them considered sleepiness to have been the main cause of the crash.

Not surprising, given that many of the teens in the study were considered to suffer from chronic sleep-deprivation:

Results show that students suffered from chronic sleep deprivation. Although they reported that their sleep need was a mean of 9.2 hours per night, the students reported sleeping for an average of only 7.3 hours on weeknights.

Only six percent of students slept nine hours or more on weeknights, and 58 percent tried to catch up by sleeping nine hours or more on weekends.

Yeah, yeah, we know — teens will be teens. But it’s just one more reason a teen (yes, I’m looking at you!) should not dismiss the impact that a lack of sleep has in their lives. It may not just be your grades that suffer. Instead, it may be someone else who suffers from a motor vehicle accident that you caused because you’re not getting enough sleep.

Get more sleep!

Read the news articles:

  • Nocturnal Teens Need Sunlight
  • Lack of Sleep Disrupts Teen Driving
Teens, Sunlight and Sleep

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Teens, Sunlight and Sleep. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 17 Feb 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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