'Sleep Debt' Tied to Attention Trouble in Teens

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Tuesday, September 13, 2011

'Sleep Debt' Tied to Attention Trouble in Teens

High school students who catch up on sleep over the weekend do worse on attention tests in school than kids who don't get extra shuteye, according to a new study.

Researchers say the findings suggest "sleep debt" accumulated during the week might be taxing the teens' intellectual resources.

"It's like a bank -- they are on constant, huge sleep overdraft," Dr. David Gozal, an expert in childhood sleep problems at the University of Chicago, told Reuters Health.

On average, the South Korean teens who were studied -- some 2,600 high school students -- only got five hours and 42 minutes of sleep on weekdays. During the weekend, however, they added nearly three hours of shuteye per night, based on questionnaires.

Those who slept more on weekends -- indicating they were sleep deprived during the week -- did worse on computerized attention tasks in class, Dr. Seog Ju Kim of Gachon University of Medicine and Science in Incheon and colleagues found.

Although their results don't prove that lack of sleep is to blame, they could not be explained by differences in age, sex, depression or snoring, the researchers report in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Attention problems were not tied to the number of hours teens slept during the week, however. Gozal said that makes sense because some children may thrive on little sleep, whereas those who don't will try to catch up on their sleep debt over the weekend.

Source: Reuters / Fox News