Sleep-deprived teens more likely to engage in risky, suicidal behavior, study says

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New Study: Letting Kids Sleep In Could Save U.S. $9 Billion A Year

Insufficient sleep can affect teenagers’ ability to perform well in school, but it can also affect their conduct, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital recently administered a study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, to determine the association between sleep duration and "risk-taking" actions like consuming alcohol or drugs.

To do so, they examined data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an American-based questionnaire that explored health-related behaviors that contribute to death and disability among youth and adults. They pulled information from more than 67,000 high school students collected between 2007 and 2015.

After analyzing the results, they found 70 percent of the participants were receiving less than the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, and those who slept less than six hours were more likely to engage in “risky” behavior, the authors wrote.

In fact, those who slept less than six hours nightly were three times more likely to consider or attempt suicide and four times as likely to attempt suicide that resulted in treatment, compared to kids who got all eight hours.

Furthermore, high school students who slept less than six hours were twice as likely to self-report using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs, and driving after drinking alcohol. They were also almost twice as likely to report carrying a weapon or being in a fight.

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"We found the odds of unsafe behavior by high school students increased significantly with fewer hours of sleep," lead author Mathew Weaver said in a statement. "Personal risk-taking behaviors are common precursors to accidents and suicides, which are the leading causes of death among teens and have important implications for the health and safety of high school students nationally."

The scientists noted their limitations, acknowledging the data evaluated was self-reported and could have had inaccuracies. They also said lack of sleep does not cause high risk of unsafe behaviors. However, they do believe their findings raise multiple public health concerns and hope to continue their studies.

“More research is needed to determine the specific relationships between sleep and personal safety risk-taking behaviors,” senior author Elizabeth Klerman added. “We should support efforts to promote healthy sleep habits and decrease barriers to sufficient sleep in this vulnerable population.”

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