The quality and amount of sleep during adolescence remains a neglected research topic in the UK while the importance of sleep for adolescents’ well-being is widely acknowledged.1 Some HBSC countries have already included questions on sleep in their questionnaire, and we have decided to include sleeping questions in England in the next round of HBSC.
Research suggests that optimal sleep duration for adolescents is 9 hours or more, with anything less than 8 hours considered to be insufficient. Both biological and social factors influence the duration of sleep: biological maturation, decreased parental influence, increased academic obligations and workload, social activities etc.2 An insufficient amount of sleep can cause a lot of daytime stress to young people. Not getting enough sleep produces higher levels of anxiety, depressive feelings, excessive daytime tiredness and fatigue3. Research also shows that insufficient sleep influences adolescents’ emotional, social and psychological well-being and can produce emotional, cognitive, and behavioural problems, a higher risk of depression and even suicidal thoughts4. Recent studies have found that a delayed sleep schedule can be correlated with low self-control, a tendency to postpone tasks and poor time management.3 Better-rested young people usually have higher achievement motivation compared to those who do not sleep enough.
Sleep difficulties may also have an impact on adolescents’ functioning at school, since sufficient sleep is important for learning and cognitive performance. School-based surveys indicate that adolescents who sleep less than others achieve lower school grades.4,5,6 Students with sleep duration of less than 8 hours have been shown to exhibit more daytime tiredness, less behavioural persistence, less positive attitude towards life, and lower school grades in mathematics and languages compared to their counterparts who sleep longer.2,4
Adolescents also have their own individual circadian preferences: adolescents who function better at evening/night time (people commonly referred to as owls) go to bed and wake up later (especially on weekends), spend less time in bed during the week but more on weekends, have irregular sleep–wake schedules, and report poor sleep. Moreover, evening types nap more frequently during school days, often complain of daytime sleepiness and inability to concentrate, have poorer school achievement, more injuries and were more emotionally upset than the morning types (people who would prefer to function from early morning, so called larks). Evening types also used more caffeine-containing beverages and substances to resist sleeping in the day time.7,8
So how to improve adolescent sleep? Researchers recommend that young people strive to attain a sleeping duration of at least 8 hours.2, 5, 9 Another recommendation is the development of interventions to reduce screen-based behaviours in the pre-sleep period, as it has been found that screen sedentary time (watching TV etc.) dominate adolescents’ pre-sleep period and this is associated with a later sleep onset.10 Recent research also suggests that a later start time for schools can be beneficial for young people’s well-being; this will be looked at more in-depth in our next blog post.
- National Sleep Foundation. (2006). Sleep in America poll. Washington DC: National Sleep Foundation
- Fuligni,A.J., and Hardway,C.(2006) Daily Variation in Adolescents’ Sleep,Activities, and Psychological Well-Being), Journal of Research on Adolescence , 16(3), 353–378.
- Perkinson-Gloor ,N., Lemola,L., Grob,A.(2013) Sleep duration, positive attitude toward life, and academic achievement: The role of daytime tiredness, behavioral persistence, and school start times, Journal of Adolescence, January 2013.
- Wolfson, A.R., Carskadon,M.A.(2008)Sleep Schedules and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents. Child Development, Volume 69, Issue 4, pages 875–887.
- Dewald, J. F., Meijer, A. M., Oort, F. J., Kerkhof, G. A., & Bogels, S. M. (2010). The influence of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleepiness on school performance in children and adolescents: a meta-analytic review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 14, 179–189.
- Howell, A.,Digdon, N.L., Buro,K., Sheptycki,A.R.(2008), Relations among mindfulness, well-being, and sleep, Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 45 (2008) 773–777.
- Gianotti,F.,Cortesi,F., Sebastiani,T.,Ottaviano,S.(2002)Circadian preference, sleep and daytime behaviour in adolescence(2002),Journal of Sleep Research, Volume 11, Issue 3, pages 191–199, September 2002.
- Owens, J. A., Belon, K., & Moss, P. (2010). Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 164, 608–614.
- Foley,L.S.,Maddison,R.,Jiang,Y.,Marsh,S,.Olds,T.,Ridley,K.(2013)Presleep Activities and Time of Sleep Onset in Children, Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 2 February 1, 2013 pp. 276 -282 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1651.