Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

CDC: Lack of sleep associated with risky behavior among teens :

April 8, 2016

Tired teens may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, a new study found.

“Although insufficient sleep contributes to injury risk directly by slowing reaction time, impairing ability to pay attention, or causing a driver to fall asleep, this study provides evidence that some of the increased risk associated with insufficient sleep might be caused by engaging in injury-related risk behaviors,” authors said in the report “Sleep Duration and Injury-Related Risk Behaviors Among High School Students – United States, 2007-2013” (Wheaton AG, et al. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. April 8, 2016,

The National Sleep Foundation recommends eight to 10 hours of sleep a night for teens. However, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from National Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of more than 50,000 high school students and found about 69% sleep seven hours or fewer.

Females were more likely to skimp on sleep than males (71.3% vs. 66.4%), and high school seniors (76.6%) were more likely to skip sleep than freshmen (59.7%), according to the study. There were racial differences as well. Asian teens had the highest rates of insufficient sleep at 75.7% compared to American Indian/Alaska Native students who had the lowest at 60.3%.

The team looked at five risky behaviors and found 86.1% of all students surveyed don’t use bicycle helmets frequently, 30.3% text while driving, 26% recently rode in a car with a driver who had been drinking, 8.9% drove after drinking and 8.7% don’t use seatbelts frequently. All five risky behaviors were more common among students who slept seven hours or less.

The CDC also found too much sleep was associated with risky behaviors. Teens were more likely to skip the seatbelt, ride with a drunken driver or drink and drive if they slept 10 or more hours on a typical school night compared to those who slept nine hours.

“Although short and long sleep might simply be associated with other adolescent risk behaviors, insufficient sleep might cause persons to take more risks and disregard the possibility of negative consequences,” according to the study. “However, depression might contribute to both sleep problems and participation in risk behaviors.”

Researchers suggest teens maintain a consistent sleep schedule and remove light and electronics from their bedrooms at night.

In a 2014 policy statement School Start Times for Adolescents, the Academy said teens often don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. or after and recommended middle and high schools avoid starting before 8:30 a.m. to help teens get enough sleep. Being tired, it said, can have significant effects.

“As a result, many middle and high school students are at risk for adverse consequences … including impairments in mood, affect regulation, attention, memory, behavior control, executive function, and quality of life,” according to the policy.

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal