How A Lack Of Adequate Sleep Can Affect Your Teen's Health

In our hectic society, getting enough sleep might feel like a far-off dream. Between the use of technology, consumption of caffeine, and feeling like there's not enough time in the day, snoozing for the recommended number of hours can be tough. While this is true for adults, it's especially true for kids. Teens who don't get enough sleep might be at risk of serious health conditions, according to a new study.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children between the ages of six and 13 sleep for nine to 11 hours each night, while teenagers around 14 to 17 get between eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. Getting adequate sleep translates to feeling well when awake and can impact your quality of life (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). While we sleep, waste products from the brain cells get flushed out and it's vital for our immunity and metabolism.

But when we don't get enough rest, those important functions don't occur, compromising our health. The new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022 found that only 34% of 12-year-olds get at least eight hours of sleep per night. In fact, that number drops as children get older. Just 23% of 14-year-old children get a minimum of eight hours, as well as 19% of 16-year-olds. With the number of hours getting a goodnight's rest decreasing for teens, it appears like the chances of health diseases are increasing.

Health implications of inadequate sleep in teens

Researchers found that the percentages of lack of sleep corresponded to the likelihood of obesity, as well as other health characteristics, like high blood pressure and abnormal blood sugar levels (via Healthline). The study measured the sleep of 1,229 adolescents ranging from ages 12, 14, and 16. Participants were sorted into three groups: very short sleepers (less than 7 hours), short sleepers (7-8 hours), and optimal (8 hours or more).

Those who were considered very short sleepers were 21% more likely to be overweight and obese at age 12 than optimal sleepers. That number skyrocketed to 72% at 14 years old. Both very short and short sleepers also had the worse scores for metabolic markers, like waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose, and lipid levels.

There are a lot of reasons why teens don't get enough sleep, some of which include increased technology use, excessive homework and activities, and early school start times (via Healthline). Both individual and policy change is needed to help teens get more sleep. Recently, a California law went into effect in July that declared high schools can't start classes any earlier than 8:30 a.m., along with middle schools before 8:00 a.m. However, teens can helpĀ improve their sleep by putting away technology an hour before bed and going outside for about 10 minutes each day, and parents can set a good example by doing the same.