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Study Finds Teens who Sleep Less Have more Academic and Emotional Issues

Update Date: Nov 11, 2013 01:50 PM EST
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Based on the findings of several previous studies, researchers have repeatedly reported that sleep deprivation can negatively affect physical and mental health. These studies have found that people who slept fewer hours experienced more fatigue, cognitive impairment and a lack of concentration the following morning in comparison to people who slept more. Now, in a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, the findings reveal that teenagers who slept less than other teenagers have more academic and emotional issues.

"This very important study adds to the already clear evidence that youth who are night owls are at greater risk for adverse outcomes," said UC Berkeley psychologist Allison Harvey, senior author of the paper reported by Medical Xpress. "Helping teens go to bed earlier may be an important pathway for reducing risk. This will not be an easy process. But here at Berkeley, our sleep coaches draw from the science of motivation, habit formation and sleep to help teens achieve earlier bedtimes."

The research team looked at data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which is a nationally representative cohort study done in the United States. The study monitored and followed adolescents to see what factors influenced their behaviors and started in 1994. The team specifically analyzed information on 2,700 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18.

The researchers examined three time periods, which were the onset of puberty, one year after puberty and young adulthood. Of the 2,700 adolescents, 30 percent of them reported sleeping later than 11:30pm on school days. During the summer time, these children stated that they slept later than 1:30am. The researchers found that by the time the children graduated from high school, the children who slept later had lower grade point averages (G.P.A.) and more emotional problems. The team found that sleeping later during the summertime when school is not in session did not affect children's academics but did increase children's vulnerability in developing emotional problems.

"Academic pressures, busy after-school schedules, and the desire to finally have free time at the end of the day to connect with friends on the phone or online make this problem even more challenging," said Lauren Asarnow, lead author of the study and a graduate student in UC Berkeley's Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic. "The good news is that sleep behavior is highly modifiable with the right support."

The research team stressed the importance of getting young children and teenagers to sleep earlier and stick to their sleeping schedules. The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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