Sleep Deprivation and Youth


Sleep deprivation is a common health concern among youth. Today’s technology has provided television screens, computer screens, cellular phone screens, and gaming screens of all sizes. The amount of time teens spend in front of these varieties of screens affects their sleep quality and patterns.
A study evaluating the relationship between screen – time and sleep deprivation in youth used 9875 youth between the ages of 16-19. Questionnaires were used for the evaluation process. Both genders were found to be at an increased risk for daily sleep deprivation due to longer screen-times, boys preferred electronics usage focusing more on game consoles and PC gaming for boys. Girls preferred online chatting and other PC use.

Sleep deprivation came with more than four hours of screen-time after school.  More than four hours of screen-time after school also increased the risk of sleep onset latency (SOL) of more than 60 minutes. Sleep onset latency refers to the length of time it takes to fall asleep.  Chances are if sleep is delayed it may also be interrupted.  It is common to wake up several times during the night if high activity instead of relaxation was the pre-bedtime activity.

Although there was found to be a relationship between electronics and the sleep patterns of youth, the “cross-sectional design of the study does not allow for conclusion of causation.” Sleep deprivation and SOL were reported by the studied youth, this study does provide evidence that parents should monitor screen-time and electronics use time.

The cross-sectional study showed a deficit of two hours when youth after-school screen time exceeded four hours. An SOL higher than 60 minutes was higher in youth who used more than four devices, instead of only one device and had more than four hours of screen-time after school. General PC use affected sleep deprivation the most and left youth with five or less hours of sleep.
The lack of sleep can cause health concerns in the future, but right now, not getting enough  is hurting youths GPA and SAT scores. It can also affect an athlete’s performance during a game. These affects are now, not in 30 years. If teens do not get a full nine hours at night, it can cause skin problems, lower your immune system so you could get sick and miss school and increase a newer driver’s risk for a car accident.

Mary Carskadon, a sleep expert and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University says teens need around nine hours of sleep. There are studies that show as many as two-thirds of the nation’s teens are getting less than seven hours.


It is important to talk to teenagers about their sleep times in a way that truly matters to them. Such as running times slowing by even ten milliseconds. The “psychomotor vigilance test” shows links between sleep deprivation and reaction time. Lack of sleep leads to missed cues; you react “a blink too slowly” up to bat.

REM (rapid eye movement)  is when the brain processes information. The brain gathers information during the day and puts in into context during REM sleep, says Helene Emsellem, the medical director at the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, MD. So if your baseball coach gives you ways to help your swing, your brain will replay those steps and learn them while you sleep, according to Emsellem.

Lack of quality sleep can also cause weight gain. According to Michael Twery, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of health, fat is not metabolized well at night, there can be an increase in lipid levels and blood glucose. So, in effect, the body does not process and store nutrients at night the same as it does during the day. Most of all, people look better after a good night’s sleep.

By Jeanette Smith


Herald Tribune

2 Minute Medicine

My Central Jersey

Photo: courtesy of Adam Goode – Flickr License

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