Bedtimes Linked To Teens Depression

More kids getting less sleep

Teens whose parents let them stay up after midnight on weeknights have a much higher chance of being depressed or suicidal than teens whose parents enforce an earlier bedtime, says research being presented today at a national sleep conference.

The findings are the first to examine bedtimes’ effects on kids’ mental health – and the results are noteworthy. Middle- and high-schoolers whose parents don’t require them to be in bed before midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be depressed than teens whose parents require a 10 p.m. or earlier bedtime. And teens who are allowed to stay up late are 30% more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the past year.

The differences are smaller but still significant – 25% and 20%, respectively – after controlling for age, sex, race and ethnicity.

A team led by Columbia University Medical Center researcher James Gangwisch examined surveys from 15,659 teens and their parents who took part in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of adolescent health. Previous research has established a firm connection between teens getting less sleep and feeling depressed or suicidal.

The NIH survey found that kids whose parents called for a 9-10 p.m. bedtime said they were in bed, on average, by 10:04 p.m. They slept for 8 hours and 10 minutes on average, compared with 7½ hours for kids allowed to stay up past midnight.

The lesson for parents is simple, Gangwisch says: Try as much as possible to sell teenagers on the importance of getting enough sleep – even if it seems that they don’t need as much as younger children (actually, they need as much – about nine hours – but usually get only 7½ hours or so, according to the NIH).

“We feel like we can just eat into our sleep time,” he says, “but we pay for it in many different ways.”

The new data come from analyses of NIH surveys from 1994 to 1996, but Gangwisch believes the disparities between teens with and without prescribed bedtimes are even greater today, given greater distractions in their lives. In 1996, for instance, teens couldn’t stay up late texting friends and checking Facebook pages.

“I would guess that there are more kids getting less sleep,” he says.

Gangwisch is presenting the findings in Seattle at SLEEP 2009, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Via USA Today