In one of the largest epidemiologic studies of insomnia among adolescents ever conducted in the United States, a new study allows for an estimation of the impact of chronic insomnia on future functioning of adolescents. Youths with insomnia, particularly chronic insomnia, are at greater risk of future somatic and especially psychological problems, the study* found.
Robert E. Roberts, PhD, professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, and lead author of the study, collected data from 4,175 youths between 11-17 years of age, who completed diagnostic interviews and questionnaires that inquired about symptoms of disturbed sleep, focusing primarily on symptoms of insomnia, their frequency and duration. Dr. Roberts and his colleagues then examined selected risk and protective factors and their ability to prospectively predict incidence of insomnia over one year, specifically age, sex, family income, ethnicity, and physical and mental problems.
The follow-up one year later consisted of 3,134 of these youths.
According to the results, one year incidence was 13.9 percent for one or more symptoms of insomnia, 5.5 percent for one or more symptoms plus daytime fatigue or sleepiness, and 5.3 percent for insomnia caseness. Rates of chronicity were 45.8 percent for one or more symptoms of insomnia, 34.7 percent with daytime fatigue or sleepiness, and 22.8 percent for insomnia caseness. There were no effects of age, sex or family income in predicting incidence or chronicity of insomnia. There was an association of both somatic and psychological dysfunction, with stronger prediction for psychological dysfunction.
These results, said Dr. Roberts, document further the public health burden of insomnia among adolescents.
"Our data suggest the burden of insomnia among youths is comparable to that of other major psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse," said Dr. Roberts. "Given this burden, one implication is that health care providers should place greater emphasis on detecting and treating insomnia among adolescents."
Insomnia is a classification of sleep disorders in which a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. These disorders may also be defined by an overall poor quality of sleep.
It is recommended that teens get about nine hours of nightly sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers the following tips to help teens get the most out of their sleep. Parents should be aware of these guidelines and should use them to help their teen develop healthy sleep habits:
- Try to get close to nine hours of sleep each night. Get enough sleep so that you wake up refreshed and alert for the day.
- Try to wind down and relax before bedtime. Avoid intense studying, arguing and exercising. Stop playing video or computer games and enjoy some quiet time before bed.
- Avoid bright lights in the evening. Darkness lets your body know it's time to sleep.
- Try to get bright light in the morning. This helps reset your clock for the next night. Turn on bright lights and open your blinds when you get up. Getting exercise in the morning also may help.
- Try to catch up on any lost sleep when you can. Naps can be helpful to catch up with lost sleep, but don't nap in the evening. Sleeping later on weekends can help catch up with lost sleep. But do not sleep later than two to three hours past your normal weekday wake up time, especially on Sunday mornings.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
- Do not drive if you are sleepy. Driving sleepy can be as dangerous as driving drunk.
*The article "Persistence and change in symptoms of insomnia among adolescents", is published in the February 1 issue of the journal Sleep.
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