Bedtime Rules Help Teens Sleep Longer

A new study suggests that it is possible to successfully re-introduce bedtime rules during the teenage years and increase sleep duration.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that teenagers get between eight and 10 hours of sleep. However, a 2018 study found 73% of American high school students across 30 states did not meet the sleep recommendations.

The researchers at Flinders University in Australia looked at the relationship between bedtimes set by parents and teenagers’ sleep duration and latency, which is the time it takes a person to fall asleep after turning the lights out.

For their study published in the Journal of Sleep Research, the researchers examined data from 2,509 adolescents aged from 12 to 14. Adolescents were asked about bedtime rules on two occasions — when they were 12 to 13 years old and 13 to 14 years old.

Nearly half (46%) reported no bedtime set by parents at both times, whereas 19% had bedtime rules only on the first occasion. Some 9% of the participants had bedtime introduced only during the second survey.

Sleep was measured using the Modified Sleep Habits Survey, in which the participants reported at what time they usually go to bed, how long it takes them to fall asleep, when they wake up in the morning, and other sleep patterns.

The study found that teenagers with bedtime rules at both times had the earliest bedtimes compared with those who did not have rules or only had bedtime set on one occasion. Those who had bedtime rules introduced during the second survey had about 20 minutes longer sleeping duration than those with no bedtime on the same occasion.

Most importantly, they were not significantly different from adolescents who reported bedtime rules at both time points. This suggests that it is possible to re-introduce bedtimes in teenage years successfully and, as a result, slow the trend of decreasing sleep duration.

“Most young people tend to stay up later and have less sleep when they are left to set their own bedtimes, but qualitative research is finding that adolescents are open to parental guidance to improve their sleep patterns,” says the study author and psychology researcher Serena Bauducco.

Sleep latency declined for the overall sample from the first to the second time of the survey but was not affected by parent-set bedtimes.

The authors say that further investigation is necessary into whether pre-existing individual differences of adolescents in the different groups might explain the results.

Not getting enough sleep puts teenagers at a higher risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, and car crashes, as well as obesity and weakening of immune system. Additionally, insufficient sleep may impair academic performance.

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