Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.
Researchers investigated the sleep patterns and history of traumatic life events of more than 9,000 teenagers, ages 16 to 19. Within this group, one set of teens lived with foster families, another set received child welfare services while remaining in their own homes, and the third set reported not receiving any welfare services.
Teens who received services experienced more sleep issues than the teens who did not in the following ways:
Adolescents who received welfare services, particularly those receiving in-home services, had the highest rate of sleep problems. These teens, compared to those who live with a foster family, remain in their own homes and receive support services.
Teens receiving in-house services reported an average of 5 hours of sleep on weekdays and seven hours of sleep on weekends — 90 minutes less per night than the group who did not have contact with welfare services. This group’s rate of having insomnia was the highest, at 39%.
When the researchers factored in the teens’ responses about traumatic life events, results suggested that traumatic life events contributed to the teens’ increased risk of having sleep issues.
These traumatic life events include:
Researchers say this study highlights the importance of supporting the mental health and home environments of teens with a history of experiencing traumatic events, as they also can support better sleep health. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause sleep issues. Adolescents already may have a hard time getting enough sleep because of this age group’s body clock shift, school start times, and other factors.
The difference between at-home service and foster care dynamics, researchers note, may have to do with a supportive home environment. Foster parents go through a selection process and have the support of welfare service employees to help meet their foster children’s needs. Teens who live with still their families and receive in-home services, on the other hand, may still experience “turbulent and [un]resolved family conditions,” researchers involved in the study said.
Supportive home environments may have a positive effect on sleep health. Teens who remained in their families’ homes and received only in-home welfare services had higher rates of insomnia and other sleep issues than those living with foster parents. Researchers point to the likelihood of a more supportive home environment as a factor in helping those teens get better sleep.
Identifying and treating sleep issues is important in supporting the sleep and mental health of this population of teens, researchers say. In particular, they say that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) may help support positive changes to adolescents’ sleep health.
Educating families in contact with welfare services about sleep health risks and establishing supportive home environments may also help this group of teens.
The Sleep Foundation editorial team is dedicated to providing content that meets the highest standards for accuracy and objectivity. Our editors and medical experts rigorously evaluate every article and guide to ensure the information is factual, up-to-date, and free of bias.
The Sleep Foundation fact-checking guidelines are as follows: