Teen sleep deprivation quickly leads to lethargy, anger, and depression

ADELAIDE, Australia — New research by scientists at Flinders University is ringing the alarm bell when it comes to teenage sleep habits. Study authors say sleep deprivation quickly results in energy loss, impaired functioning, anger, and depression among teens. There’s no shortage of reasons why a teen may find themselves up all night these days, with researchers citing late night studying and pandemic stress as just two common examples.

A total of 34 healthy teenagers (20 boys, 14 girls) between the ages of 15 and 17 took part in this research. Each teen spent a total of 10 days and nine nights sleeping in a specially designed “sleep center” set up by the research team.

Study authors separated the teens into three sleeping groups for a period of five nights. One group slept five hours per night, another slept 7.5 hours per night, and the last group got to sleep for 10 hours each evening. After waking, scientists assessed the teens’ moods every three hours. More specifically, researchers measured levels of varying emotions and feelings including anger, depression, fear, confusion, energy, anxiousness, and happiness.

Less sleep is a big problem for teens

Teens assigned to the five-hour sleep group were significantly more depressed, angry, and confused during sleep restriction than at baseline in comparison to the other two sleeping groups. Moreover, teens sleeping only five hours saw their happiness and energy levels decrease significantly. Conversely, participants afforded the luxury of 10 hours of sleep experienced big happiness increases.

“The two nights of recovery sleep was not sufficient to recover from increased negative mood states for the five-hour group, although recovery occurred for positive mood states,” says lead author and research fellow Dr. Michelle Short in a university release. “Given the prevalence of insufficient sleep and the rising incidence of mood disorders and dysregulation in adolescents, our findings highlight the importance of sufficient sleep to mitigate these risks.”

Most parents know how formative and influential our teenage years are, and that goes for sleep as well. Lack of sleep during adolescence can put an individual at a greater risk of developing various mood disorders.

The study is published in the journal Sleep.