New Poll Shows Sleep and Mental Health Are Strongly Linked for Teens(March 8, 2024) — Dr. Anuj Chandra is sharing results of the 2024 Sleep In America Poll, just released by the National Sleep Foundation to mark National Sleep Week March 10-16. The survey shows strong links between sleep health and mental health for teens.

According to the survey:

  • More than 1 in 3 teens have mild or greater depressive symptoms.
  • Half of all teens feel lonely or isolated at least once or twice a week.
  • Teenagers who start school before 8:30 a.m. — which is true for 7 out of 10 — have higher levels of depressive symptoms than those who start school later.

“Parents should take these poll results as a call to action to do more to help teens with their sleep,” said Dr. Anuj Chandra, medical director of the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders. “Everyone knows that mental health is an issue, but it is so easy to look only at things like bullying or drug abuse and forget about sleep. But sleep affects mental health, period, full stop.”

According to the survey, 80 percent of teens don’t get enough sleep, more than half declare low satisfaction with their sleep, and most score low on practicing healthy sleep behaviors.

Teens themselves understand that sleep and mental health are connected:

  • Almost three-fourths of teens say their emotional well-being takes a hit when they sleep less than usual.
  • Nearly 70 percent of teens dissatisfied with their sleep report both loneliness and mild or greater depressive symptoms.
  • Teens who have trouble falling or staying asleep two or more nights a week have significantly more depressive symptoms.

“Parents and schools can and should be more aggressive about helping teens get enough sleep,” said Dr. Chandra. “Teens may resist changing their behaviors, and there is always pressure to stay up late because of school work and extracurricular activities. But it’s so important to their mental and physical health.”

The survey shows that healthy sleep behaviors can promote mental health in teens:

  • Nearly 80 percent of teens with healthy sleep behaviors have no significant depressive symptoms.
  • Teens who get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights have significantly lower depressive symptoms.

Dr. Chandra’s Healthy Sleep Tips for Teens

 (Some) Extra Weekend Sleep — “On weekends, teens should not sleep more than two hours past their weekday wake time. More will disrupt their body clock and make it harder to wake up on Monday morning.”

  • Wind Down at Night — “Teens really need to avoid stimulating activities in the late evening: no heavy studying, computer games, exciting video, or falling asleep with a video on. No late caffeine, including sodas or chocolate. Avoid using any screens for an hour before bed.”
  • Bedtime Routine — “Help your teen maintain a regular, relaxing routine to unwind at night during the week. This helps the body feel ready to sleep.”
  • Sunlight at the Right Time — “Help teens get sunlight first thing in the morning and, if possible, avoid bright lights in the evening.”
  • Avoid Napping — “If teens are really sleepy, a 30-45 minute nap is okay, but anything longer will make it harder to sleep at night.”
  • Regular Exercise — “If they are not athletic, help your teen establish a regular exercise routine.”

More on the 2024 Sleep In America Poll results:

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