Sleep deprivation in teens is at epidemic levels in this country. A recent study was published by the Centers for Disease Control on the amount of time that teenagers get on an average school night. Students were surveyed over school years from 2007–2013. The results of the survey were alarming, even to those of us who spend a lot of time worrying about the sleep of teenagers. The results varied from year to to year but very few students were getting ≧ 9 hours of sleep per night (6.2–7.7% of females and 8.4% of males). The Center for Disease Control recommends that teenagers get 9–10 hours of sleep per night. Here are charts showing these percentages by gender. Only the kids in blue are getting enough sleep:
Additionally, the amount of sleep that teenagers get as they progress through high school decreases over time, likely due to a combination of circadian preference and increasing homework load. About 5% of high school seniors are getting an adequate amount of sleep:
Race had some effects as well, with the percentage of black boys and girls getting ≦5 hours of sleep per night being more common than their white peers. Because of the nature of this study, we do not know why this is.
These data are even worse than I would have anticipated. It shows that sleep deprivation is endemic in teenagers. Moreover, it seems like structural change is necessary to address this issue. The two obvious targets are school start time times and homework workloads. Apologists for the status quo point to the difficulty and expense related to change; however, I ask you: can we afford to wait?