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Quality, not quantity is key in teens’ sleep habits: B.C. study

UBC researchers say teens who have trouble falling or staying asleep have poorer health outcomes

Teens are infamous for not getting enough sleep, but a University of B.C. study suggests it’s not the quantity but rather the quality of sleep that’s important for youngsters.

In a study released Monday in Preventive Medicine, researchers looked at how 3,104 teens ages 13 to 17 slept.

“Surprisingly, we found no relationship between poor health outcomes and those who chronically had less than eight hours sleep a night,” study author Annalijn Conklin said.

The study found that teens who had trouble falling or staying asleep – even just one night a week – were more than two times likely to report poorer health than teens who fell asleep easily.

Conklin, a scientist with the Centre for Health Evaluations and Outcome Sciences, said she looked into sleep because she found it largely overlooked in discussions about health that focused on diet and exercise.

“What was particularly interesting was that the relationship between chronic, poor-quality sleep and health outcome was stronger in the boys than it was in the girls,” she said.

Conklin said that although the study couldn’t be used to imply causation, “it shows that there’s definitely a link between poor health and chronic poor-quality sleep, which may be gender specific.”

She said that although this study looked only at sleep habits, earlier studies on caffeine and screen time before bed meant enforcing sleep schedules and placing restrictions on screen time would likely improve teens’ health.

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