A Saint John sleep specialist says parents and teenagers have to work together to ensure sleep deprivation does not become an issue in their lives.

Dr. Rachel Morehouse, a sleep expert and professor of psychiatry at the Saint John campus of Dalhousie University, recently led a nationwide study of the effects of sleep deprivation and shared the results with CBC's Information Morning.

"The theme is basically teenagers using social media, smartphones and computers into the late evening and early morning hours are missing out on a significant chunk of sleep, are having trouble getting up and going to school, are underachieving in school and are suffering from things like depression and anxiety," said Morehouse.

Results concerning

Morehouse said countries around the world are studying the effects digital technology is having on adolescents and adds the results are concerning.

"I'm kind of worried about it and have been worried when I've been talking to teenagers in the clinic."

Dr. Rachel Morehouse

Dr. Rachel Morehouse says sleep deprivation among teenagers is concerning. (LinkedIn)

Morehouse said teenagers come in complaining of insomnia and she explores the setting in which it is occurring through questions about their sleep-disturbing activities.

"And I'm finding out that yeah, indeed they are sleeping with the phone under the pillow, waking up to text, texting in the middle of the night and all this kind of stuff," Morehouse said, adding it's no wonder the person is feeling terrible the next day.

Teens need to learn self care

The sleep specialist said some adults are just as bad but said many have figured it out.

"Really, if I'm on my computer until late at night and I don't get enough sleep, I just feel dreadful the next day."

Morehouse said adolescents have to become responsible for their own health behaviours, their own self care but it takes a while.

"Peer groups are everything and to shut it off is tough for kids."


Teenagers have to learn self care when dealing with sleep deprivation. (CBC)

The sleep specialist said when people are sleep deprived, they are more prone to a whole lot of physical and mental problems.

"Their immunity suffers, they are more likely to get ill. Their mood suffers, they are more likely to be depressed. The effects of sleep deprivation are on all systems in the body."

When asked what could be done to protect teenagers from sleep deprivation in the digital world, Morehouse said it is a task for parents and teenagers to tackle together.

"You have to work with them to have them see of what the effects are of having their sleep curtailed like this and broker something that works for everybody."

With files from Information Morning Saint John