It has been known that poor teen sleep affects the decision making of those who do sleep enough. The consequences of this lack of sleep are also well-documented. A new study has shown that sleep-deprived teens are more prone to unprotected sex, drug use and overall poor decision making.
The study conducted by researchers at RAND Corp and published in the journal Health Psychology reveals that who did not get enough sleep—an average of 3.5 hours than their counterpart—were more like to engage in risky behavior such having without using a condom and taking drugs.
The study was conducted on1,850 teens aged16 from Southern California between 2013 and 2017.
“Teens who were short weekday [average of 6.35 hours a night] and short weekend sleepers [average of 7.8 hours a night] were not getting adequate sleep during the school week and were not catching up on sleep on the weekends, and thus were chronically sleep-deprived,” said study author Wendy Troxel, author of the study.
“Insufficient sleep may increase the potential for sexual risk-taking by compromising decision-making and influencing impulsivity. Sexual risk-taking in adolescence poses serious health concerns, such as an increased potential of getting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV,” she added.
It’s not the first time a lack of sleep has been shown to affect the mental health and aptitude of teenagers. A previous study had already revealed that youth who sleep less than six hours a night may be more likely to have more accidents or develop more mental health and addiction problems, according to one study.
According to experts, a good night’s sleep among 14-17 year-olds should last between 8am and 10am for them to be fit. Yet surveys have shown that nearly 30% of teenagers are in debt for sleep, and that 25% of them sleep less than 7 hours per night. The reasons vary but usually include smartphones, video games, binge watching, etc.
A study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers had also revealed that teenagers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or driving under influence. The results, published in JAMA Pediatrics, compared data collected between 2007 and 2015 among 67,615 American high school students — that is, between the sixth and the final year. They showed that participants who slept less than 6 hours per night were twice as likely to report using alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or other drugs, and to drive drunk compared to their peers who sleep at least 8 hours per night.
The researchers also found a strong correlation between lack of sleep, mood and self-harm. Those same students who did not sleep enough were three times more likely to think or attempt suicide.
The researchers advise parents to regulate the sleep of their children, by encouraging them to go to sleep at the same time every night, to exercise and to turn off all electronic devices before they go to bed.