Lack of sleep may contribute to teens’ risky behavior, researchers say

teenage asleep

Photo: Cathy Yeulet/iStockphoto

Atlanta – Teens are known for taking risks, but a new study concludes that high school students who report insufficient sleep are more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at increased risk of injury.

For the study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from more than 50,000 high school students who participated in Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System surveys in 2007, 2009, 2011 or 2013.

Researchers found that students who reported sleeping seven hours or less on an average school night had a “significantly higher” likelihood of engaging in risk behaviors than students who slept nine hours per night. The risk behaviors included infrequent bicycle helmet use, infrequent safety belt use, riding with a driver who had been drinking, drinking and driving, and texting while driving.

“This study provides evidence that some of the increased risk associated with insufficient sleep might be caused by engaging in injury-related risk behaviors,” the study states. “Insufficient sleep might cause persons to take more risks and disregard the possibility of negative consequences.”

The study also linked sleeping 10 or more hours a night with infrequent safety belt use, riding with a drunk driver, and drinking and driving.

Researchers recommended intervention efforts aimed at risk-taking behaviors to reduce injuries resulting from a lack of sleep, and increasing awareness on the importance of sleep. Teens should receive eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Previous studies have concluded that insufficient sleep among teens is associated with an increased risk of unintentional injuries due to slower reaction time, an impaired ability to pay attention or falling asleep at the wheel.

The results were published April 8 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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