Adolescent Insomnia

Young people with sleep problems have a significant increase of personal problems. That's one of the findings in a first of its kind study of adolescent insomnia. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

The study was the first to track adolescents for several years. The baseline research was on 4,200 11 to 17-year-olds. The study gathered information a year later and then five years after that. It was conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Robert Roberts was the lead author. He says about 5% of young people suffer from insomnia.

"Meaning they have trouble falling asleep, they have trouble staying asleep or they wake up to early, and they have day time sleepiness or daytime fatigue. It's the diagnostic definition of a psychiatric disorder that involves sleep disturbance."

And there were even more who had some of the symptoms of insomnia. Roberts says the study found that the adolescents who had difficulty sleeping had other problems too.

"Poor physical health, poor interpersonal problems, had worse perceived mental health, they were two and a half to three times as likely to be depressed. They weren't more likely to use alcohol, but they were more likely to use other drugs."

Roberts says the reason insomnia becomes chronic in adolescents is due in large party to bad sleep habits.

"They don't go to bed at the same time at night; they don't get up at the same time in the morning. When they go to bed at night or to their room they do other things, they watch television, they text message, they get on the computer. They also are drinking and smoking and both of those things make it more difficult to sleep."

Roberts says not enough is being done to identify sleep problems of 11-to-17 year olds. He suggests that one way to identify them is for family doctors to include questions about sleep when taking a young person's medical history.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...