Behavioural support helps shift teens’ bedtime to improve their sleep

October 5, 2022
Behavioural support helps shift teens’ bedtime to improve their sleep

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center (Rush) have found a way to address sleep deprivation in teens by introducing select behavioural measures and interventions. The set-up created by the researchers targeted the teens’ circadian rhythm, and was intended to help the teens figure out a good nighttime routine that they could stick to.

Teens are advised to have a solid eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. However, most teens instead get in less than eight hours of sleep, especially on school nights – potentially risking their physical health, emotional well-being, and school performance.

Going to bed earlier on account of a changed school schedule has been identified as a driving force behind teen sleep deprivation. Adjusting to a new sleep schedule at the start of the school year can reportedly lead to disturbed rest, daytime fatigue, and changes in mood and focus for teens.

The other force acting on teen sleep deprivation involves a biological change that happens naturally to a teen’s body.

To combat this, Rush researchers used bright light therapy on a number of teen participants, lasting for two weekend mornings for a total of 2.5 hours. The bright light cues the internal clock to wake up a little earlier, and makes it easier for the teen to fall asleep at an appropriate time.

Stephanie J. Crowley, Associate professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Pediatric Chronobiology and Sleep Research Program at Rush, and her research team then introduced the participants to time management tools and addressed barriers to an earlier bedtime. The interventions proposed included limiting certain after-school activities.

As a result, the researchers were able to shift the teens’ bedtime by an hour and a half earlier, and their total sleep time increased by approximately an hour.

“The brain systems that control sleep change [during puberty] in such a way that it’s easier for an adolescent to stay awake later into the evening. One of these systems – the 24-hour circadian clock – shifts later in time,” Professor Crowley had explained.

“The interesting thing is that teens with late circadian clocks shifted by up to two hours earlier. And the teens who had an earlier circadian clock didn’t need to be shifted any earlier. They just needed the behavioural support of trying to manage their time in the evening and increase their sleep duration.”

The teens in the intervention group were also found to be less tired, less irritable, and less worried, and exhibited better concentration. The students’ morning alertness improved as well.

The researchers are following the participants to determine whether they were able to maintain their improved sleep routine.


Category: Education, Features

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