Teen Sleep Deprivation Causes Depression Later in Adulthood

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Teen sleep deprivation may be caused by a natural shift in circadian rhythm, making it harder for them to sleep before 11 pm, Laura Sterni, M.D. noted. Add to that increased school workload, extracurriculars, and perhaps even a part-time job, lack of sleep among teenagers is becoming more common.

In fact, about 70% of American teenagers struggle with borderline to severe sleep debt, Childmind revealed.

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Teenage Sleep Deprivation and Adult Depression

Unfortunately, a lack of sleep in one's teenage years can impact one's current mental health, and in later life, BBC reported. Teens who have problems with sleeping raise the risk of having mental health problems later. Prioritizing sleep in teenagers may lower the risk of depression later.

A recent study by University of Sussex psychologist Faith Orchard revealed that teenagers who reported bad sleeping habits at age 15 were more likely to experience depression and anxiety than their peers who had better sleeping habits.

While the teens may not have symptoms of depression or anxiety at age 15, depression can strike when they reach 17, 21, or 24 years old. Even in adults, the risk of depression later in life doubled due to having sleep problems.

Daniel Freeman, a clinical psychologist, stressed the importance of giving higher priority to patients with sleep problems, especially in mental health care.

Further, experts determined that insomnia or sleep deprivation and mental health issues exacerbate each other. Tackling poor sleep among those who experience symptoms of depression can help reduce depression.

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30 Minutes Less Sleep Causes Depression

Dr. Orchard's study published in the "Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry" further determined that teenagers who reported experiencing depression went to sleep 30 minutes later each night, Science Daily said. These participants noted the worse quality of sleep along with much less quantity of sleep.

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The study was conducted on nearly 5,000 teenagers between 14 and 17 years old. While their peers slept 8 hours a night on weekdays and 9.5 hours on weekends, the depressed group got an average of 7.25 hours sleep on school nights and about 9 hours sleep on weekends. These teenagers lost about 3.5 hours of sleep a week.

How Much Sleep Do Teenagers Need?

While the National Sleep Foundation says 8 to 10 hours of sleep is sufficient for teenagers, John Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, M.D. stressed out that teenagers need an hour more sleep than they needed at ten years old. Teens need 9 to 9.5 hours of sleep every night, Hopkins Medicine revealed.

Teenagers need more sleep than kids because they are at their second developmental stage of cognitive maturation. Getting enough sleep helps protect teenagers from depression and drug use. Adequate sleep also helps with physical growth spurts and supports the development of their brain.

More Consequences of Sleep Deprivation in Teens

Further, teen sleep deprivation can create more problems for teenagers, including:

  • Increased risk of injuries. Parents should be careful not to let their sleep-deprived teens drive.
  • Inability to self-regulate or control mood, impulses, and emotions. Poor sleep is linked to aggressive and impulsive behaviors.
  • Greater risk for self-medicating with alcohol and engaging in unprotected sex.

Thus, parents of teenagers should help their adolescent children adopt a regular sleep schedule. This may include educating teens about how much sleep they need and recommending good sleep hygiene. Also, check if your teen may need to be diagnosed with insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, or sleep apnea.

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