As families settle back into a new school year, sleep experts at the University of South Australia are reminding parents about the importance of teenagers getting enough sleep, cautioning them that insufficient sleep can negatively affect their mental health.
n a new research paper, UniSA sleep experts Dr Alex Agostini and Dr Stephanie Centofanti confirm that sleep is intrinsically linked to mental health, but is commonly overlooked by health practitioners as a contributing factor.
Dr Agostini says it’s imperative that parents and medical practitioners are aware of the bi-directional relationship between sleep and mental health, particularly across the teenage years.
“Getting enough sleep is important for all of us ¬¬- it helps our physical and mental health, boosts our immunity, and ensures we can function well on a daily basis,” Dr Agostini¬ says.
“But for teenagers, sleep is especially critical because they’re at an age where they’re going through a whole range of physical, social, and developmental changes, all of which depend on enough sleep.
“Research shows that teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep each night. Without this, they’re less able to deal with stressors, such as bullying or social pressures, and run the risk of developing behavioural problems, as well as anxiety and depression.
“If sleep drops to less than six hours a night, research shows that teens are twice as likely to engage in risky behaviours such as dangerous driving, marijuana, alcohol or tobacco use, risky sexual behaviour, and other aggressive or harmful activities.”