Teenagers across the country are staying up late tonight to ring in the new year. But teens who make a habit of staying up past midnight have an increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts.
A new study finds that adolescents can improve their mental health by sticking to bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. Compared with teenagers who hit the hay by 10, those who go to bed after midnight were 24% more likely to be depressed and 20% more likely to seriously contemplate suicide.
Even more important than an early bedtime -- though certainly related to it -- was the total amount of sleep teens got. Compared with adolescents who reported eight hours of shut-eye each night, those who managed five hours or less were 71% more likely to be depressed and 48% more likely to consider suicide.
Columbia University psychotherapist James Gangwisch and colleagues determined these risks by analyzing data collected from 15,659 kids in grades 7 through 12 and their parents as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Overall, 7% of teens were depressed and 13% had seriously contemplated suicide.
The findings, published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, are in line with the theory that insufficient shut-eye can cause depression, according Gangwisch. “Adequate quality sleep could therefore be a preventative measure against depression and a treatment for depression,” he said in a statement.
Gangwisch has previously linked inadequate sleep to obesity, type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Of course, convincing teens to turn in by 10 is easier said than done. In the survey data, only 54% of parents said their teens were in bed by 10 p.m., and 25% said they allowed their adolescents to turn in after midnight. For help enforcing an early bedtime, check out these tips from SleepEducation.com.
-- Karen Kaplan
Photo: Early to bed makes teens healthy (at least when it comes to mental health). We're not yet sure about wealthy and wise. Credit: Los Angeles Times