Reduced sleep on school nights begins in early adolescence

Published: Monday, June 9, 2008 - 07:15 in Psychology & Sociology

The trend for delays and reductions of school-night sleep begins early in adolescence, even with delayed school start times, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Monday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS). The study, authored by Stephanie Apollon, Amy Wolfson and colleagues of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., focused on 96 seventh graders who completed the School Sleep Habits Questionnaire (school/weekend sleep variables, caffeine use) and assessed sleep for seven days via diaries and actigraphy. Twenty-five percent of the students were from families with incomes below $20,000. Effects of sex, family income, and access to health care were analyzed.

According to the results, 37 percent of the seventh graders were falling asleep after 11 p.m. with 66 percent getting less than nine hours on school nights. Family incomes below $40,000 were significantly associated with more delayed sleep patterns, particularly on weekends, and increased caffeine use. Although income was not significantly associated with health care provider use, seventh graders who had regular contact with a health care provider had healthier school-night sleep patterns than those without health care (e.g., 25 minutes more sleep, 30 min. earlier bed times, less delayed sleep schedules).

“These findings demonstrate that the trend for delays and reductions of school-night sleep begin early in adolescence, even with delayed school start times,” said Amy R. Wolfson, PhD, of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., who developed the concept for this study that is funded by NICHD. “Other demographic factors exacerbate young adolescents’ sleep patterns. Middle schoolers from families with either low income or poor access to physicians obtained less sleep, had more delayed schedules, and reported more frequent caffeine use.”

It is recommended that adolescents get nine hours of nightly sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
  • Get a full night’s sleep every night.
  • Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
  • Do not stay up all hours of the night to “cram” for an exam, do homework, etc. If after-school activities are proving to be too time-consuming, consider cutting back on these activities.
  • Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom.
  • Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
  • Get up at the same time every morning.

Those who suspect that they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician or a sleep specialist.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine


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