Adolescent Sleep Needs and Patterns

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have identified adolescents and young adults (ages 12 to 25 years) as a population at high risk for problem sleepiness based on "evidence that the prevalence of problem sleepiness is high and increasing with particularly serious consequences." (NIH, 1997) This designation evolved from a Working Group on Problem Sleepiness convened in 1997 by NIH's National Center on Sleep Disorders Research and the Office of Prevention, Education, and Control. The group concluded that steps must be taken to reduce the risks associated with problem sleepiness.

What are these risks? The most troubling consequences of sleepiness are injuries and deaths related to lapses in attention and delayed response times at critical moments, such as while driving. Drowsiness or fatigue has been identified as a principle cause in at least 100,000 police-reported traffic crashes each year, killing more than 1,500 Americans and injuring another 71,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 1994). Young drivers age 25 or under are involved in more than one-half of fall-asleep crashes.

The National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) Sleep And Teens Task Force developed this report to summarize existing research about sleep-related issues affecting adolescents. We hope that this report will serve as a valuable and practical resource for parents, educators, community leaders, adolescents and others in their efforts to make informed decisions regarding health, safety and sleep-related issues within their communities.

A nonprofit, private organization, NSF is a leader in public education efforts regarding the risks associated with drowsy driving and other issues related to sleepiness and sleep loss. We welcome your comments about this report and your suggestions for expanding public awareness and supporting positive changes to protect the safety and well-being of our nation's youth.

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