Getting too little sleep might be a sign of - or even a contributor to - emotional problems, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among teens, according to a large study from Europe.
Based on data about the sleep habits of nearly 12,000 teens across 11 European countries, researchers found that a student with suicidal thoughts could be predicted to sleep about 36 minutes less each night compared to counterparts with no suicidal thoughts. For teens with severe emotional problems, the amount of sleep lost would be about 30 minutes, on average, each night.
In the study, French teens reported the lowest average sleep times and Irish teens reported the highest. Teens in Israel reported the widest range of sleep times, from less than six hours to about nine-and-a-half.
The authors write in the journal Sleep Medicine that self-reports, like those in this study, can be inaccurate because of faulty recall, or the desire to "please or displease, or provoke, particularly in adolescents."
Researchers cannot say whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the sleep patterns and mental health problems seen in the study.
"It's important to look at how to increase hours of sleep among teenagers," said Dr. Iris F. Litt, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in California.