New research says teens may be accidentally jet lagging themselves with their erratic sleep schedules
Why some Canadian teens may be particularly susceptible to this phenomenon, too
What pops into your head when you think of teenagers? Moody, bored, unmotivated? Certainly millennials, and even younger generations, have been painted with that brush. The teens are often seen as slacker years and it's easy to forget that we were probably the same way when we were that age. But could it be that these lethargic labels are not due to inherently sluggish personalities, but caused by the common teenage schedule? New research examined the weekly lives of teens to uncover that their sleep schedules may be responsible for wreaking havoc on their energy levels.
Researchers from Örebro University in Sweden surveyed 2767 teenagers ages 12 to 16, investigating the link between their total weekly sleep times and their emotional/psychological behaviours. 12% of the students between ages 12 and 13 and 18% of students between 14 and 16 were sleeping noticeably less than the recommended seven hours per night. Those students were found to be more likely to have a shifting sleep schedule; meaning they'd sleep regularly during weekdays, then stay up later on weekend nights, causing them to sleep in later. When the next school week rolled around, they've essentially jet lagged themselves. Students with these poor sleeping patterns were also more likely to report use of technology in bed, stresses at school and home as well as mental health issues like anger, anxiety and depression.
Most of us are all too familiar with jet lag and the ways it can rock our internal clocks. We often experience similar symptoms during daylight savings, and hectic travel has even been shown to noticeably affect the performance of MLB players. So, it's no surprise that teens who induce this state on a weekly basis find themselves facing a slew of adverse side effects. Seven hours a night might seem like a Herculean task for a teen, but the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine has recommended that those between the ages 13 and 18 should be sleeping even longer — between 8 to 10 hours a night.
Another study suggests that this problem may be even more prevalent in parts of Canada, where it was estimated as much as 60% of New Brunswick youth were falling well below the needed shuteye due, in part, to pre-bed screen time. The mention of increased technology use amongst poor sleepers should not be ignored; another study found that sleep amongst adolescents has trended downward over the past two decades and points to the increase of social media as a strong reason why.
If you do have actual travel-induced jet lag, there are clear ways to manage it, but it seems unlikely that the teen schedule will undergo a major overhaul. However, any teen who assumes that skipping out on sleep just means they'll be groggy in the morning is sorely missing out on how the brain benefits when at rest. From consolidating our memory to improving our metabolism, the sleeping brain is, in many senses, more active than when waking, helping to prime our bodies for the day ahead. And before you send this article to all the teens in your life, perhaps you should read it again — over half of adults in Canada reported poor sleep quality, too.