Study finds link between sleep-deprived teens and risky behaviors

An NHLBI funded study found that more than 70 percent of high school students in the United States get less than 8 hours of sleep per night, falling short of the 8-10 hours they required for optimal health.

Previous studies have shown that insufficient sleep in youth can result in learning difficulties, impaired judgement, and risk of adverse health behaviors.

The current study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, categorized the students based on the amount of sleep they got each night – 8 hours or more, seven hours, six hours, or under six hours. Researchers found an association between sleep duration and personal safety risk-taking actions.

Compared to those getting 8-10 hours of sleep, the teens who slept less than six hours were twice as likely to report using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs, and driving under the influence. They were also nearly twice as likely to report carrying a weapon or being in a fight.

Researchers found the strongest associations were related to mood and self- harm. Those 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.