A study published earlier this year by JAMA Pediatrics titled “Dose-Dependent Associations Between Sleep Duration and Unsafe Behaviors Among US High School Students” found that teenagers who aren’t getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep at night are being affected much more negatively than we thought. JAMA Pediatrics collected data from about 67,000 high school students over the course of eight years. About 70% of the students questioned in the study stated that they slept less than six hours a night while only about 30% said that they slept for more than that. They found that most of the students that participated in the study slept for less than six hours each night and were reported to be twice as likely to use substances like alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana compared to other students. They also found strong correlations between lack of sleep and violent behavior as well as self harm even saying that students who slept less than six hours were three times more likely to consider suicide.
“I only get about five to six hours of sleep every night,” said local high school senior Mac Boyle. “I always feel overwhelmed with college applications, school work, and social media. They’re all constant stressors. In today’s climate, you see lots of teens turning to drug use to feel something, it’s a difficult time we live in with lots of polarizing viewpoints and complex issues. I personally feel that instead of making it harder for teens to get into drugs we need to target the reasons teens are turning to drugs. Drugs are used to feel happy and there’s an overwhelming amount of teens being diagnosed with depression so I think that there’s a deeper underlying issue with our society.”
The problem of lack of sleep in teens isn’t something that can be solved easily, even if you try to establish a healthy sleep pattern you usually come back to the unhealthy pattern. This is something seen a lot because things like family, work, or school force these patterns to change.
“Sometimes, I’ll get four hours of sleep in a row, “ said Sacramento teenager Stephen Regalia. “Basically, whenever I’m losing sleep, I have problems with a class, taking care of my mental health, or I’m getting buried underneath a tidal wave of homework. All that does is make it that much harder for me to succeed.”
Lack of sleep in teenagers is incredibly dangerous for this generation. It’s opening a path of mental health issues for teenagers including alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts. The lead author of the study, Matthew Weaver, said: “They are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally.” Something needs to be done about this in our society, something needs to be pinpointed so we can fix this issue.