SleepTimeRecommendations012615[1]-page-001_0Texting behind the wheel, drinking while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, exceeding the speed limit. Now add one more risky behavior in teenagers: not getting enough sleep.

A new report published last week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) begins by telling what is already known:

Insufficient sleep is common among high school students and has been associated with an increased risk for motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, and occupational injuries.


More than 50,000 high school students took part in national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 2007-2013. It shouldn’t be surprising that most teenagers are getting insufficient sleep (defined as seven hours or less of sleep per night). Reported sleep duration on an average night was all over the board:

  • 4 hours or less: 6.3%
  • 5 hours: 10.5%
  • 6 hours: 21.9%
  • 7 hours: 30.1%
  • 8 hours: 23.5%
  • 9 hours: 5.8%
  • 10 hours or more: 1.8%


69% of high school students are not getting enough sleep, 2% are getting too much, and 29% are getting just the right amount of sleep, according to the definition. The researchers looked at five high-risk behaviors in teenagers — infrequent bicycle helmet use, infrequent seatbelt use, riding with a driver who had been drinking, drinking and driving, and texting while driving — and found that only those teenagers residing in that “Goldilocks range” of sufficient sleep are safest:

The likelihood of each of the five risk behaviors was significantly higher for students who reported sleeping ≤7 hours on an average school night; infrequent seatbelt use, riding with a drinking driver, and drinking and driving were also more likely for students who reported sleeping ≥10 hours compared with 9 hours on an average school night.


Melissa Healy drills down further:

Among adolescents, two-thirds of all fatalities are related to traffic crashes. Sleepiness impairs a teen’s attention and reaction time behind the wheel, which is bad enough. But the authors of the new report suggest that chronic sleep shortage might also be linked to poor judgment or a “likelihood to disregard the negative consequences” of taking chances.


While nightly sleep is a big factor influencing the odds of risky behaviors in teenagers, there is no doubt that, generally, teenagers live on the edge:

Teens’ average propensities to engage in risky behavior were not reassuring: On average, 26% reported they had ridden in a car with a driver who had drunk alcohol at least once in the past 30 days; 30.3% reported they had texted while driving at least once in the past 30 days; 8.9% reported drinking and driving in the past 30 days, and 8.7% reported infrequent seatbelt use. Fully 86.1% reported they wore a bicycle helmet infrequently while riding a bike.


In case you are wondering, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults 18-64 years of age. They recommend following these strategies to achieve adequate nightly sleep for all ages:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule , even on weekends.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual .
  • Exercise daily.
  • Evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
    Beware of hidden sleep stealers , like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Turn off electronics before bed.