Photo Credit: Vitalii Matokha / Shutterstock
Living through one’s teenage years is never easy, but for today’s teens, it seems harder than ever to enjoy a happy, healthy adolescence.
Late in 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General released a new advisory on youth mental health, drawing attention to rising rates of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues among young Americans. According to data cited in the advisory, up to one in five U.S. children aged 3 to 17 had a reported mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder. Many of these worrying conditions predated the COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened mental health for many young people by disrupting their routines, limiting their social interactions, and increasing stress about the health of loved ones.
These trends in youth mental health can be attributed in part to detrimental shifts in young people’s lifestyle over time, including increased academic stress, growing use of digital media, and worsening health habits. And one of the major potential culprits in the latter category is sleep.
According to the CDC, teenagers should sleep between 8–10 hours per 24 hour period. This level of sleep is associated with a number of better physical and mental health outcomes, including lower risk of obesity and fewer problems with attention and behavior. Despite this, less than a quarter of teens report sleeping at least eight hours per day—a number that has fallen significantly over the last decade.