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Analysis piece on sleep deprivation in US teenagers authored by Horacio de la Iglesia in The Conversation

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 08:30

UW Biology Professor Horacio de la Iglesia recently authored an analysis piece featured in The Conversation on sleep deprivation in US teenagers.

With the school year underway around the U.S., parents and caregivers are once again faced with the age-old struggle of wrangling groggy kids out of bed in the morning. For parents of preteens and teenagers, it can be particularly challenging.

Sometimes this gets chalked up to laziness in teens. But the main reason why a healthy person is unable to naturally wake up without an alarm is that they are not getting the sleep their brain and body need.

That’s because studies show that adolescents need more than nine hours of daily sleep to be physically and mentally healthy.

But the likelihood that you know a teenager who gets enough sleep is rather slim. In the U.S., less than 30% of high school students – or those in grades 9 through 12 – sleep the recommended amount, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among middle schoolers in grades 6-8, nearly 60% do not get enough sleep at night.

Yet my laboratory’s research suggests that a much higher percentage of teens are getting too little sleep.

I am a professor of biology and have been studying sleep and circadian rhythms for more than 30 years. For the past seven years, my laboratory at the University of Washington has been doing research on sleep in Seattle-area teenagers. Our research has found that, just as in other areas of the U.S., high schoolers in Seattle are not getting the amount of sleep they need. Our study objectively measured sleep in 182 high school sophomores and seniors and found only two that slept at least nine hours at night during school days.

Our studies and those of others indicate that three important factors lie behind this lack-of-sleep epidemic: a physiological regulation of sleep that leads to a delayed sleep timing in teens and that is not aligned with early school start times, a lack of morning exposure to daylight and excessive exposure to bright electric light and screens late in the evening.

Read the full article in The Conversation.

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