In a new study, University of British Columbia researchers found that poor-quality sleep can affect long-term health in teens, and parents are right to insist on sleep schedules and perhaps limit late-night screen use.
“Chronic, low-quality sleep was associated with poorer health outcomes among young B.C. students,” said study author Dr. Annalijn Conklin, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC and a scientist with the Centre for Health Evaluations and Outcome Sciences.
“Kids who regularly had trouble falling or staying asleep were almost 2-1/2 times as likely to report sub-optimal or less than excellent health, compared to those who did not.”
The study assessed 3,104 students in British Columbia aged 13 to 17 over a period of two years. Findings appear in the journal Preventive Medicine.
“Even if these teens had difficulty falling asleep just one night a week, if that was a regular occurrence over two years, it really seemed to affect their overall health,” added Conklin.
“What was particularly interesting was that the relationship between chronic, poor-quality sleep and health outcome was stronger in the boys than it was in the girls.”
However, the research found no relationship between poor health outcomes and those who chronically had less than eight hours sleep a night.
As an observational study, this research does not look into cause and effect, but the researchers say the findings signal that cumulative sleep problems matter for the health of young people.
“It shows that there’s definitely a link between poor health and chronic poor-quality sleep, which may be gender-specific, and I’m looking forward to seeing more research explore that connection,” said Conklin.
She added that the findings highlight the need for parents to work on the many recommendations about sleep hygiene practices.
“Other studies have specifically shown that late-night screen use and caffeine consumption have harmful consequences for falling sleep. Young people’s health may benefit from parents enforcing sleep schedules and placing restrictions on screen time,” Conklin said.
Source: University of British Columbia