Teens who are tired are more likely to do risky things that wind up hurting them, a new study suggests.
Researchers surveyed more than 50,000 U.S. high school students, asking them how often they engaged in five behaviors that increase the risk for injuries: texting while driving, rarely wearing a seat belt, rarely wearing a bicycle helmet, riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking, or drinking and driving.
The results showed that teens who slept 7 hours or less on an average school night were more likely to say that they engaged in all five of these behaviors, compared with teens who slept an average of 9 hours a night.
Being sleepy may directly increase a person's risk for injuries — for example, a person could fall asleep behind the wheel or have a slower reaction time. But the new study suggests that sleep-deprived people may also engage in risky behaviors, which, in turn, increases their injury risk, the researchers said.
"Insufficient sleep might cause persons to take more risks and disregard the possibility of negative consequences," the researchers, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens ages 14 to 17 get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Tips for promoting sleep include reducing exposure to light in the evening; keeping cellphones, computers and other gadgets out of the bedroom; and going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, the CDC said. [5 Sleep Tips for Gadget Junkies]
Health care providers may also consider screening teens for behaviors that increase the risk for injury, and counseling them, the CDC said.
It's important to note that the new study cannot prove that insufficient sleep causes risky behavior in teens; it's possible that other factors are responsible for the link. For example, depression may increase the risk of both sleep problems and risky behaviors, the CDC said.