More teenagers get less sleep

May 1, 2015

Adolescents of all ages have been getting less sleep during the past 2 decades than teenagers in earlier years, according to a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey of 272,000 youngsters from 1991 to 2012.

Adolescents of all ages have been getting less sleep during the past 2 decades than teenagers in earlier years, according to a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of 272,000 youngsters from 1991 to 2012. Respondents, whom investigators surveyed in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, were asked “How often do you get at least 7 hours of sleep?” and “How often do you get less sleep than you should?” The adolescents registered their responses on a 6-point scale that ranged from “never” to “every day.”

Survey results showed that self-reported adolescent sleep has decreased over the past 20 years, with the largest decline in 15-year-olds, 71.5% of whom reported regularly getting 7 or more hours of sleep a night in 1991 compared with 63% in 2012. Girls, racial/ethnic groups (except blacks), and students with a lower socioeconomic status reported getting 7 or more hours of sleep less often than boys, non-Hispanic whites, and students of higher socioeconomic status, respectively. Finally, 18- to 19-year-olds were least likely to report regularly getting 7 or more hours of sleep. Results also revealed a mismatch between perceptions of adequate sleep and actual reported sleep (Keyes KM, et al. Pediatrics. 2015;135[3]:460-468).

Commentary: The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9 hours of sleep a night for teenagers. These researchers set a lower threshold: 7 hours. Even with that less-ambitious goal, many teenagers did not meet the mark. Interestingly, many adolescents, especially those who were from lower socioeconomic groups, minorities, and urban teenagers, didn’t realize that their sleep duration was less than recommended. It may be that good adolescent sleep hygiene starts with educating adolescents on what constitutes a good night’s sleep. -Michael G Burke, MD

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.