Sleep has been identified as a major component of mental health many times, but some people neglect their basic needs for regular sleep nevertheless. One of the most at-risk groups for a harmful deficiency in sleep is adolescents, who are advised by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to receive at least nine hours of sleep each night. In a survey that formed the basis for evidence in a study carried out at Colombia University, adolescents reported getting just under eight hours each night, though some reported receiving less than five hours.
The study found that decreased rates of nightly sleep directly corresponded with increased rates-–nearly double those of respondents who received optimal sleeping times–of mental health difficulties such as depression, as well as thoughts about suicide. In particular, those who received extremely low rates of sleep were considerably more likely to experience suicidal episodes. Collecting data on parental-set bedtimes for adolescents in grades seven through twelve throughout the United States, the study showed that those who complied with bedtimes set at 10pm or earlier were far more likely to receive an adequate amount of sleep each night, and subsequently experience lower rates of depression and associated mental health concerns.
While therapy and other forms of treatment have been shown to be effective for working through such concerns, the study suggests that simply through encouraging adolescents-–whose bodies and minds are often subject to stressful schedules, uncomfortable social situations, and physically demanding routines–to get more sleep each night, many mental health tragedies may be averted. The study’s authors note that further research should be performed to address shortcomings in self-reported data among participants as well as a lack of data on school schedules.
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