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Minerva Pediatrica 2017 August;69(4):326-36

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4946.17.04914-3

Copyright © 2017 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Insufficient sleep in adolescents: causes and consequences

Judith A., OWENS 1 , Miriam R. WEISS 2

1 Sleep Medicine, Department of Neurology, Boston Children’s Hospital, Waltham, MA, USA; 2 Sleep Medicine, Department of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA


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Insufficient sleep poses an important and complicated set of health risks in the adolescent population. Not only is deficient sleep (defined as both sleep duration inadequate to meet sleep needs and sleep timing misaligned with the body’s circadian rhythms) at epidemic levels in this population, but the contributing factors are both complex and numerous and there are a myriad of negative physical and mental health, safety and performance consequences. Causes of inadequate sleep identified in this population include internal biological processes such as the normal shift (delay) in circadian rhythm that occurs in association with puberty and a developmentally-based slowing of the “sleep drive”, and external factors including extracurricular activities, excessive homework load, evening use of electronic media, caffeine intake and early school start times. Consequences range from inattentiveness, reduction in executive functioning and poor academic performance to increased risk of obesity and cardio-metabolic dysfunction, mood disturbances which include increased suicidal ideation, a higher risk of engaging in health risk behaviors such as alcohol and substance use, and increased rates of car crashes, occupational injuries and sports-related injuries. In response to these concerns, a number of promising measures have been proposed to reduce the burden of adolescent sleep loss, including healthy sleep education for students and families, and later school start times to allow adolescents to obtain sufficient and appropriately-timed sleep.


KEY WORDS: Sleep - Adolescent - Circadian rhythm

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