Insufficient Sleep among High School Students Associated with a Variety of Health-Risk Behaviors


This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 70 percent of teens are not getting the recommended hours of sleep. This lack of sleep is associated with a variety of risky behaviors such as physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, fighting, and sexual promiscuity.

High school students participating in the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey were asked how much sleep they got on an average school night. Those who responded getting less than eight hours were categorized as getting insufficient sleep. Those who got eight or more hours of sleep were categorized as getting sufficient sleep.

Researchers found that 68.9 percent of responders reported inefficient sleep on an average school night. Responders who reported insufficient sleep were also more likely to engage in risky behavior.

Insufficient sleep was associated with the 10 risky behaviors examined below:

  1. Drinking soft drinks one or more times a day. This does not include diet soft drinks
  2. Not participating in 60 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week
  3. Using computers three or more hours each day
  4. Physical fighting one or more times
  5. Smoking cigarettes
  6. Smoking marijuana
  7. Drinking alcohol
  8. Sexual activity
  9. Feeling sad or hopeless
  10. Seriously considering suicide

Lela McKnight-Eily, PhD, Division of Adult and Community Health says, “Public health intervention is greatly needed, and the consideration of delayed school start times may hold promise as one of the effective steps in a comprehensive approach to address this problem.”