Quality—Not Quantity—of Sleep Linked to Better Health in Teens0

New research from the University of British Columbia (UBC) suggests there are more benefits to a good night’s sleep than simply feeling refreshed.

“Chronic, low-quality sleep was associated with poorer health outcomes among young [British Columbia] students,” says study author Annalijn Conklin, MSc, MPH, PhD , assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC and a scientist with the Centre for Health Evaluations and Outcome Sciences, in a release. “Kids who regularly had trouble falling or staying asleep were almost two and half times as likely to report suboptimal or less than excellent health, compared to those who did not.”

The study, published in Preventive Medicine, looked at 3,104 students in British Columbia aged 13 to 17 over a period of two years.

“Even if these teens had difficulty falling asleep just one night a week, if that was a regular occurrence over two years, it really seemed to affect their overall health,” Conklin says. “What was particularly interesting was that the relationship between chronic, poor-quality sleep and health outcome was stronger in the boys than it was in the girls.”

However, the research found no relationship between poor health outcomes and those who chronically had less than 8 hours sleep a night.

As an observational study, this research does not look into cause and effect, but the researchers say the findings signal that cumulative sleep problems matter for the health of young people.

“It shows that there’s definitely a link between poor health and chronic poor-quality sleep, which may be gender-specific, and I’m looking forward to seeing more research explore that connection,” Conklin says.

She adds that the findings highlight the need for parents to work on the many recommendations around about sleep hygiene practices. “Other studies have specifically shown that late-night screen use and caffeine consumption have harmful consequences for falling sleep. Young people’s health may benefit from parents enforcing sleep schedules and placing restrictions on screen time,” Conklin says.

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