According to the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, most teens get less than eight, especially on school nights, even though they need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night to maintain physical health, mental well-being and school performance.
Stephanie J. Crowley, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences and the director of the Pediatric Chronobiology and Sleep Research Program at RUSH said, “There are a lot of changes a teen goes through. One specifically is a change to sleep biology that happens during puberty.”
Crowley further added, “The brain systems that control sleep change in such a way that it’s easier for an adolescent to stay awake later into the evening. One of these systems — the 24-hour circadian clock — shifts later in time.”
Newly published research from RUSH in the journal SLEEP sheds light on how teenagers can get more shut-eye. So there are two competing forces: one is going to bed earlier for the school schedule and the other is a biological change that occurs naturally in a teenager’s body.
Because of this complex conflict, RUSH researchers set out to test a two-week intervention that targets the circadian system through various behavioural measures and tries to help teenagers develop a good nighttime routine.
To combat sleep deprivation in adolescents, researchers used bright light therapy for a total of 2.5 hours on two weekend mornings. Bright light signals the internal clock to wake up earlier. This change will make it easier for the teen to fall asleep at an appropriate time.
“The interesting thing is that teens with late circadian clocks shifted by up to two hours earlier. And the teens who had an earlier circadian clock didn’t need to be shifted any earlier. They just needed the behavioural support of trying to manage their time in the evening and increase their sleep duration,” said Crowley.
The researchers found that teens in the intervention group were less tired, less irritable, and less anxious, and they demonstrated better concentration. Students’ morning alertness has also improved.