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Teen Health

U.S. Teens Falling Short on Sleep

Survey: 4 out of 5 Adolescents Don't Get the Optimal Amount of Sleep
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 28, 2006 -- Most U.S. adolescents are falling short on sleep, a new survey shows.

Results of the National Sleep Foundation's "2006 Sleep in America Poll" include:

  • One in five adolescents get the optimal amount of sleep for their age group (nine or more hours per night).
  • Nearly half (45%) get an insufficient amount of sleep (less than eight hours per night).
  • High school students are more likely to have a sleep shortfall than those in middle school.

Adolescents with sleep shortfalls are more likely to report crankiness, school tardiness, and drowsy driving, the survey shows. But many parents are in the dark about their teens' sleep deficits, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The nationwide poll, done by telephone last fall, included about 1,600 adolescents aged 11-17 and their parents.

Slacking on Sleep

About half of adolescents reported feeling "too tired" or "sleepy" during the day. A similar number noted difficulty falling asleep at least once in the past two weeks.

Other findings include:

  • Nearly 20% admitted falling asleep in school at least once in the last two weeks.
  • More than a quarter said they felt too tired to exercise or be physically active in the last two weeks.
  • Older adolescents were more likely to stay up later, nap, and not have a set bedtime.

Skimping on sleep also went hand-in-hand with drinking more caffeine, being late to school, and falling asleep doing homework.

Adolescents who reported feeling depressed, hopeless, nervous, tense, or too worried were more likely to report taking longer to fall asleep on school nights, getting too little sleep, and having sleep problems related to sleepiness, the survey states.

Drowsy Driving

The poll included 512 adolescents who were drivers.

About half of those adolescents admitted that they had driven while drowsy in the past year. A smaller group -- 15% -- said they had driven while drowsy at least once a week in the past year.

The survey showed that 5% of the drivers reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving in the past year.

It's not that teens didn't know the dangers of drowsy driving. Nearly seven out of 10 of those who had had driver's education or training said they had been given information about sleep and fatigue.

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