Sleep issues can affect individuals of any age and strike at any time. While most young people don’t typically look into sleep issues unless they are detected by parents or medical professionals, a new study conducted by sleep researchers from James Cook University (JCU) and the University of Queensland has found that one’s likelihood of developing sleep issues begins during adolescence. The study followed 3,600 people between the the ages of 14 and 21 and asked them to report their own sleep quality and any sleep problems. Overall, only around 25% of the participants reported sleep problems at 14, but that number shot up to over 40% once the participants reached 21 years.

According to JCU’s Dr. Yaqoot Fatima, the jump in sleep issues between 14 and 21 is likely due to social pressures. Depression and anxiety are well-known to be risk factors for sleep problems, while sleep problems are often known to make individuals anxious or depressed. Fatima says that like most psychological issues, one’s relationship with their parents can play a large role in developing sleep issues:

Maternal factors, such as drug abuse, smoking, depression, and anxiety among mothers are the most significant predictors of adolescent sleep problems in their children, at 14-years-old. For all people studied, being female, having experienced early adolescence, and being a smoker were the most significant predictors of sleep problems at 21 years.

As usual, the researchers also point to risk factors like diet, excessive screen time, and substance use as risk factors for poor sleep quality. The researchers don’t exactly break new ground when it comes to suggesting remedies either, noting that an active lifestyle remains among the best medication-free treatments for nearly all sleep issues. Still, this study shines light on an interesting facet of sleep research and shoes that social factors experienced during adolescence can play just as large a role as lifestyle choices when it comes to developing sleep issues.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina.
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