Over the past few decades young adults have been sleeping fewer and fewer hours.
Young people who rob themselves of sleep by spending all night surfing the internet and playing computer games are tripling their chances of developing a mental illness, according to research. People who sleep less than five hours a night are up to three times more likely to become mentally ill than those sleeping eight or nine hours, the report said.
A 17-24 year old sleeps on average eight to nine hours per night, but this figure has been decreasing due to the amount of time young people spend on electronic gadgets in their bedrooms.
Researchers from George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia, analysed the sleeping habits of almost 20,000 people aged between 17 and 24.
They found over half of those who got fewer than six hours sleep had high levels of psychological distress, compared with one quarter of those who slept eight to nine hours a night.
Professor Nick Glozier, who led the study, said: “Over the past few decades young adults have been sleeping fewer and fewer hours, whereas the rest of us have generally been sleeping more hours.
“There’s a whole load of gadgets that kids and young adults now have in their bedrooms that they never used to have.
“Yet of course they have to get up and go to school or college or go to university at exactly the same time. So there’s a group of them who are becoming more and more sleep-deprived.”
A lack of sleep could have potentially serious effects, he said.
“What we are seeing is young adults who start off with anxiety and body clock problems, moving on to problems like bipolar or major depression.
“In young adults already experiencing distress, the fewer hours they sleep the worse the outcome.”
Psychological distress was assessed using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), that evaluates a person’s mental health problems.
The results appear in the journal Sleep.