- Fewer hours of sleep on school nights were associated with a rise in unsafe behaviors
- 70% of high school students get less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night
"Fewer hours of sleep on an average school night [is] associated with increased odds of all selected unsafe behaviors," the authors wrote, including risk-taking while driving, such as drunken driving, potentially unsafe sexual activity, aggressive behavior and use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Participants' sleep duration was categorized as eight hours or more, seven hours, six hours or less than six hours and then measured against high-risk behaviors, in the study published Monday
in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The team found the strongest associations in relation to mood and self-harm. Teens who slept for less than six hours per night were three times more likely to report considering suicide, planning a suicide attempt or attempting suicide, compared with teens who slept eight hours or more. They were also four times more likely to have reported a suicide attempt that resulted in them needing treatment.
The researchers used data from from February 2007 to May 2015 from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a US-based survey exploring behaviors related to health risks in youth, and found that more than 70% of high school students were getting less than the recommended
eight hours of sleep per night.
"Prior reports have documented that high school students who slept less than eight hours were at increased risk of adverse self-behaviors," said Matthew Weaver
, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School
and associate epidemiologist in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women's Hospital
, who led the study. "Our study adds to this literature by using a larger updated data set over a longer study interval and by incorporating more granular sleep information and looking at a wider array of risk taking behaviors."
The sample size and categorization of sleep duration were beneficial to the study, according to Reut Gruber
, director of the Attention, Behavior and Sleep Laboratory
at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry
at McGill University. Gruber was not involved in the study.
"I think it reinforces what we believe is the case," Gruber said, "I'm not sure each one of the findings is completely a surprise or new, but it does certainly validate what we think. Sometimes, the challenge with other studies, they might be much smaller, or the sample might not be selected properly, might be biased, so I think the methodology in terms of the sampling and sample size is a real strength."