Background: Sleep duration affects the health of children and adolescents. Shorter sleep durations have been associated with poorer academic performance, unintentional injuries, and obesity in adolescents. This study extends our understanding of how adolescents perceive and deal with their sleep issues.
Methods: General education classes were randomly selected from a convenience sample of three high schools in the Midwest. Three hundred eighty-four ninth- to twelfth-grade students (57%) completed a self-administered valid and reliable questionnaire on sleep behaviors and perceptions of sleep.
Results: Most respondents (91.9%) obtained inadequate sleep (≤ 9 hours) on most school nights of the week, with 10% reporting less than 6 hours of sleep each week night. The majority indicated that not getting enough sleep had the following effects on them: being more tired during the day (93.7%), having difficulty paying attention (83.6%), lower grades (60.8%), increase in stress (59.0%), and having difficulty getting along with others (57.7%). Some students reported engaging in harmful behaviors to help them sleep: taking sleeping pills (6.0%), smoking a cigarette to relax (5.7%), and drinking alcohol in the evening (2.9%). Students who received fewer hours of sleep were significantly more likely to report being stressed (p = .02) and were more likely to be overweight (p = .04).
Conclusions: Inadequate sleep time may be contributing to adolescent health problems such as increased stress and obesity. Findings indicate a need for sleep hygiene education for adolescents and their parents. A long-term solution to chronic sleep deprivation among high school students could include delaying high school start times, such as was done successfully in the Minneapolis Public School District.