Sleep-Deprived Teenagers Take More Risks

According to a study published by U.S. health officials, high school students who are deprived of sleep are more apt to be injured--due to risky behavior--than those students who get enough rest. Researchers observed over 50,000 students and learned that those subjects who slept for seven hours or less on school nights were more prone to such risky behaviors as riding with a drinking driver, not wearing a seatbelt or driving under the influence. Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead researcher reported that high school students who fail “to get sufficient sleep” place themselves at an “increased risk for unintentional injuries.”

The research also revealed that teenagers who got 10 or more hours of sleep each night were also apt to become injured from engaging in risky behavior when compared with subjects who got nine hours of sleep. The director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center in Los Angeles, Doctor Alon Avidan, noted that this more recent study, however, is the first work that proves that sleep deprivation in high school students actually leads to the risky behavior that puts the teens at risk for accidents. Avidan confirms that it is not the sleep deprivation itself but the various risks that are linked to the sleep deprivation that are actually putting teenagers “at risk for injury.”

Individuals who sleep too much may also be considered “sleep deprived” since they are frequently attempting to compensate for their sleep loss. He added that too much sleep can be linked to a higher chance of chronic pain and depression. This new project focused on the relationship between numerous injury-related risk behaviors and adolescents’ the average “self-reported sleep duration” on a school night.

In addition to the earlier mentioned behaviors, the list also included infrequent use of a bicycle helmet, infrequent use of a seatbelt, and texting while driving. Wheaton stated that teens who slept seven hours or less were more apt to say they had engaged in said behaviors in comparison to teenagers who slept for nine hours.

Avidan explained that teenagers can lose sleep due to a number of different things such as late-night video game playing, television viewing, and computer use. The light exposure from computers, smartphones, tablets, and televisions can inhibit falling asleep for as long as one hour. Attempting to catch up on sleep on the weekends, drinking too much caffeine, and taking naps during the day can also impede getting enough sleep at night.

The best way to get a good night's sleep, he notes, is to keep a “regular sleep/wake schedule.” For teenagers, that is eight hours per night. He also suggests not ingesting caffeine after noon and eliminating any exposure to any artificial light.
He explains that artificial light actually defers the effect of melatonin which, he adds, is “the hormone of darkness”. The more artificial light to which one is exposed, the longer “melatonin secretion is delayed.’ That makes the problem worse he concluded.

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