Sleepless Nights Common Among Teens
Study Shows 17% of 13- to 16-Year-Olds Have Persistent Sleep Trouble
WebMD News Archive
June 10, 2004 (Philadelphia) -- Insomnia is a widespread and
perhaps underrecognized problem among U.S. teens, according to research
presented recently at a meeting of sleep experts.
In a study involving interviews with 1,014 teenagers aged 13 to
16, one-third reported having sleep problems at some point during their lives.
Among these teens, 94% reported experiencing difficulty sleeping at least twice
per week for a month or longer during the previous year. Nearly a third of this
group also had another psychiatric illness of some sort.
Nearly 17% of the teens qualified for the clinical definition
of insomnia -- trouble falling or staying asleep or achieving restful sleep at
least twice a week for a month or more, causing noticeable distress and
impairment in their daily lives.
Their insomnia appeared to be chronic or frequently recurrent
beginning at an average age of 11. Interestingly, 14% of the 13- to 16-year-old
interviewees had an episode of insomnia within the past 30 days.
"The prevalence was a bit surprising," lead researcher
Eric Johnson, PhD, a research scientist at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit,
tells WebMD. The most common problem was difficulty falling asleep. Sleep
efficiency, or time spent in bed actually sleeping, was also a significant
Puberty Affects Girls' Insomnia
The teens' sex and socioeconomic levels were the only two
significant demographic risk factors that surfaced in this study. Lower
socioeconomic level correlated with increased insomnia risk, Johnson says. In
addition, girls had a 50% higher risk than boys for insomnia symptoms.
Johnson and his colleagues also found that the risk of
developing insomnia among the teen girls correlated with puberty. There was a
"significant jump in insomnia" after their first period, Johnson says,
with girls being 2.5 times more likely to experience insomnia after their first
period than before.
Among the boys experiencing insomnia, no association was found
with their pubertal development.
In both groups, no significant difference in insomnia
prevalence could be traced to race/ethnicity or parents' marital status.
The teens' parents underwent separate interviews regarding
their children's sleep habits. "The agreement between kids and parents is
not good," Johnson tells WebMD. "In short, it doesn't appear the
parents typically know (about the symptoms)."
The second phase of this study is under way, with 400 of the
teens with insomnia now being followed two years later at ages 15 to 18.
Although any chronic sleep problem in a teenager should be
evaluated by a health care professional, here are a few tips to help your teen
- Help your teen set a regular bedtime and waking time,
and stick to it, even on weekends. This will help his or her body get used to a
regular sleep time.
- Exercise during the day, but avoid strenuous exercise
within a couple of hours of bedtime.
- Keep your teen's bedroom dark, cool, and
- Remove distractions from the bedroom, such as the
telephone or radio.