Teens who don't get enough sleep do drugs, fight and get depressed

tired teen on a bench
© Sabphoto/Shutterstock

A new study found that low sleep is linked to suicide, drugs and crime.

Waking early up for school leaves many teens grumpy and too tired to focus. And for some, it may be even worse. After examining data sets of about 67,615 high school students, a group of scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that teens who sleep less than six hours a night are more likely to:

  • drink
  • do drugs
  • drive under the influence
  • carry weapons
  • get in fights
  • attempt suicide
  • "We found the odds of unsafe behavior by high school students increased significantly with fewer hours of sleep," explained Mathew Weaver, one of the lead researchers. "Personal risk-taking behaviors are common precursors to accidents and suicides, which are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally."

    This news shocked anyone who thought teens, like vampires, don't need sleep. The rest of us are a little underwhelmed. For years, scientists have been finding that low sleep causes all kinds of problems for teens, as well as anyone who happens to be driving near a sleep-deprived teen on the road. Doctors say teens need 8-10 hours of sleep a night, but only 30 percent actually get that.

    "We should support efforts to promote healthy sleep habits and decrease barriers to sufficient sleep in this vulnerable population," explained Elizabeth Klerman, another researcher at the hospital.

    "Healthy sleep habits" may be useful, but "barriers to sufficient sleep" are the real problem. Teens are different than adults. They're wired to fall asleep later and wake up late, just as children and elderly people wake up early. People's internal body clocks, or circadian rhythms, change throughout their lives, and the teenaged one is designed for staying up late and sleeping in. So when you force teens to get up early for school, you're pretty much dooming them to insufficient sleep ... And all the car crashes, violence and other harm that comes with it.

    It's time to stop saying teens should sleep more and start actually letting them.

    Teens who don't get enough sleep do drugs, fight and get depressed
    A new study found that low sleep is linked to suicide, drugs and crime.

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