CDC: Lack of sleep associated with risky behavior among teens
MelissaJenco, News Content Editor
Tired teens may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, a new study found.
“Although insufficient sleep contributes to injury risk directly by slowing reaction
time, impairing ability to pay attention, or causing a driver to fall asleep, this
study provides evidence that some of the increased risk associated with insufficient
sleep might be caused by engaging in injury-related risk behaviors,” authors said
in the report “Sleep Duration and Injury-Related Risk Behaviors Among High School
Students – United States, 2007-2013” (Wheaton AG, et al. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. April 8, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6513a1.htm?s_cid=mm6513a1_w).
Females were more likely to skimp on sleep than males (71.3% vs. 66.4%), and high
school seniors (76.6%) were more likely to skip sleep than freshmen (59.7%), according
to the study. There were racial differences as well. Asian teens had the highest rates
of insufficient sleep at 75.7% compared to American Indian/Alaska Native students
who had the lowest at 60.3%.
The team looked at five risky behaviors and found 86.1% of all students surveyed don’t
use bicycle helmets frequently, 30.3% text while driving, 26% recently rode in a car
with a driver who had been drinking, 8.9% drove after drinking and 8.7% don’t use
seatbelts frequently. All five risky behaviors were more common among students who
slept seven hours or less.
The CDC also found too much sleep was associated with risky behaviors. Teens were
more likely to skip the seatbelt, ride with a drunken driver or drink and drive if
they slept 10 or more hours on a typical school night compared to those who slept
“Although short and long sleep might simply be associated with other adolescent risk
behaviors, insufficient sleep might cause persons to take more risks and disregard
the possibility of negative consequences,” according to the study. “However, depression
might contribute to both sleep problems and participation in risk behaviors.”
Researchers suggest teens maintain a consistent sleep schedule and remove light and
electronics from their bedrooms at night.
In a 2014 policy statement School Start Times for Adolescents, the Academy said teens often don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. or after and recommended
middle and high schools avoid starting before 8:30 a.m. to help teens get enough sleep.
Being tired, it said, can have significant effects.
“As a result, many middle and high school students are at risk for adverse consequences
… including impairments in mood, affect regulation, attention, memory, behavior control,
executive function, and quality of life,” according to the policy.