Half of the sleep deprived teenager’s parents blame electronics

National poll: 43 percent of parents say their teen has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep; social media and cell phones cited as top reasons.

Not being able to stay off electronics -- including social media and cell phones -- was the number 1 reason parents cited for their teen's sleep disturbance. CREDIT C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan
Not being able to stay off electronics -- including social media and cell phones -- was the number 1 reason parents cited for their teen's sleep disturbance. CREDIT C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan

In societies the world over, teenagers are blamed for staying up late, then struggling to wake up in the morning. While it’s true that plenty of teenagers (like many adults) do have bad bedtime habits.

Most of the teenagers say they almost always wake up during the night to look at or post messages on social media. And a new study by the University of Michigan suggests that 56% of parents of sleep-deprived teens blame this use of electronics for their child’s shut-eye.

The new report depends on responses from a nationally representative household survey that included responses from 1,018 parents with somewhere around one child 13-18 years of age.

Forty-three percent of parents report that their teen struggles to fall asleep or wakes up and can’t get back to sleep, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan. A fourth of these parents say their child experiences occasional sleep problems (one to two nights per week) while 18 percent believe their teen struggles with sleep three or more nights per week.

Not being able to stay off electronics – including social media and cell phones – was the no.1 reason parents cited for sleep disturbance.

Other reasons included irregular sleep schedules due to homework or activities (43 percent), worries about school (31 percent), and concerns about social life (23 percent). Ten percent of parents say their teen’s sleep problems are related to a health condition or medication, cited more often by parents of teens who experience frequent sleep problems.

Poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H said, “This poll suggests that sleep problems are common among teens and parents believe the late-night use of electronics is the main contributor. Teens’ hectic schedules and homework load, as well as anxiety about school performance and peer relationships, also are seen by parents as contributing to sleep problems.”

Parents surveyed say they’ve urged their teen to attempt distinctive techniques at home to help with sleep issues, incorporating constraining caffeine at night (54 percent), turning off electronics and phones at sleep time (53 percent), having a snack before bed (44 percent), and natural or herbal remedies, for example, melatonin (36 percent). A quarter of parents (28 percent) say their teen has attempted some kind of drug to address sleep issues.

When doctors recommended medication for teens’ sleep problems, it was twice as likely to be prescription sleep medication rather than over-the-counter sleep or “nighttime” medicine, parents recalled. Yet parents rated over-the-counter sleep medicine as safer for teens than prescription sleep medicine.

Clark said, “Parents whose teens continue to have frequent sleep problems, despite following recommendations for healthy sleep hygiene, may want to talk with a health care provider, particularly when considering which type of medication to try. Inadequate or disrupted sleep can have long-lasting health effects that go beyond moodiness and irritability for teens.”

“Sleep-deprived teens may have difficulty concentrating in school and those who drive have an increased risk of auto accidents. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to health problems ranging from obesity to depression.”