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Poor Sleep Tied to Risky Behavior in Teens

Poor Sleep Tied to Risky Behavior in Teens

A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics finds an association between sleep duration and personal risk-taking behaviors in high school students.

The new findings add to previous research showing that poor sleep in youth can result in learning difficulties, impaired judgment and risk of adverse health behaviors. According to sleep experts, adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep at night for optimal health, yet more than 70 percent of high school students get less than that.

“We found the odds of unsafe behavior by high school students increased significantly with fewer hours of sleep,” said lead author Mathew Weaver, Ph.D., research fellow, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Personal risk-taking behaviors are common precursors to accidents and suicides, which are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally.”

The researchers used data from 67,615 high school students collected between 2007 and 2015. Their findings show that only 30 percent of the students in the study reported averaging more than eight hours of sleep on school nights.

Students who slept less than six hours were twice as likely to self-report using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs, and driving after drinking alcohol. They were also nearly twice as likely to report carrying a weapon or being in a fight.

The strongest associations were related to mood and self-harm: Students who slept less than six hours were more than three times as likely to consider or attempt suicide, and four times as likely to attempt suicide, resulting in treatment.

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveys are administered biannually by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at public and private schools across the country.

Personal safety risk-taking behaviors were looked at both individually and as composite categories. All analyses were weighted to account for the complex survey design and controlled for age, sex, race, and year of survey in mathematical models to test the association between sleep duration and each outcome of interest.

“Insufficient sleep in youth raises multiple public health concerns, including mental health, substance abuse and motor vehicle crashes,” said senior author Elizabeth Klerman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Analytic Modeling Unit, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“More research is needed to determine the specific relationships between sleep and personal safety risk-taking behaviors. We should support efforts to promote healthy sleep habits and decrease barriers to sufficient sleep in this vulnerable population.”

Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Poor Sleep Tied to Risky Behavior in Teens

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Poor Sleep Tied to Risky Behavior in Teens. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Oct 2018 (Originally: 3 Oct 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.