Problem Sleepiness - Adolescents

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Problem sleepiness and adolescents

Many U.S. high school and college students have signs of problem sleepiness, such as:

  • difficulty getting up for school;
  • falling asleep at school; and/or
  • struggling to stay awake while doing homework.

The need for sleep may be 9 hours or more per night as a person goes through adolescence. At the same time, many teens begin to show a preference for a later bed time, which may be due to a biological change. Teens tend to stay up later but have to get up early for school, resulting in their getting much less sleep than they need.

Many factors contribute to problem sleepiness in teens and young adults, but the main causes are not getting enough sleep and irregular sleep schedules. Some of the factors that influence adolescent sleep include:

  • social activities with peers that lead to later bedtimes;
  • homework to be done in the evenings;
  • early wake-up times do to early school start times;
  • parents being less involved in setting and enforcing bedtimes; and
  • employment, sports, or other extracurricular activities that decrease the time available for sleep.

Teens and young adults who do not get enough sleep are at risk for problems such as:

  • automobile crashes;
  • poor performance in school and poor grades;
  • depressed moods; and
  • problems with peer and adult relationships.

Many adolescents have part-time jobs in addition to their classes and other activities. High school students who work more than 20 hours per week have more problem sleepiness and may use more caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol than those who work less than 20 hours per week or not at all.

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