Sleep in adolescents and college students

Adolescents undergoing puberty typically experience a delay in their sleep and wakefulness cycle, which significantly reduces their total sleep time.6-15 The National Sleep Foundation notes that, despite still

requiring the 9 hours of sleep per night they needed as pre-adolescents, adolescents tend to fall asleep around 11:00 pm and experience an average sleep time of only 7 hours and 42 minutes per night at 13 years of age. This measure decreases to about 7 hours per night by the end of adolescence at around 19 years of age.16

Compared to students with higher grades, students who attain below-average grades usually have irregular bedtimes and sleep fewer hours at night.15 Late bedtimes and reduced sleep duration have been shown to be associated with alcohol and drug use, mood disorders, and behavioral problems.15, 17-20

Late sleep onset and reduced sleep duration follow these students through their college years, and the behavioral detriments associated with this pattern can be amplified by the stresses and demands of college and social life.21-25 73% of college students report at least occasional sleep problems, and more than 48% suffer from sleep debt.22 As sleep quality is closely linked with mental and physical health and wellbeing, intervention programs aimed to improve sleep in this population are recommended.26,21,24, 25,27

Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) 28-30 is characterized by sleep onset that occurs significantly later than desired bedtimes and societal norms,31 and those with DSPD tend to remain awake longer when going to bed at conventional times. More than 7% of adolescents may have DSPD,32 which increases their risk for poor scholastic performance and behavioral problems.28 Individuals with DSPD have significantly later peak melatonin than the normal population and suppress significantly more melatonin after light exposure, suggesting a hypersensitivity to light in the phase delay portion of the phase response curve.33


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