Conditions such as loud noise and few trees in neighborhoods seem to affect how much sleep adolescents get, according to a study in the journal Sleep. In a second study, researchers measured young people’s brainwaves to observe the troublesome effects of sleep loss on memory and cognitive function.
The findings were reported by two scientific teams funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(link is external), about six out of 10 (57.8%) middle school students and seven out of 10 (72.7%) high school students in the United States do not get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights, increasing their risk for future chronic disease development. Studies have shown a link between insufficient sleep and a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and increased risk-taking behaviors in adolescents.
In the new residential environment study, which involved 110 adolescents, the researchers found that just small increases in neighborhood noise had a negative effect on sleep. In scientific terms, each standard deviation above average noise levels was linked to a 16-minute delay in falling sleep and 25% lower odds of sleeping at least eight hours per night. When the researchers looked at the effects of green space, however, they found that the teens who lived in neighborhoods with just one standard deviation above the average number of trees fell asleep 18 minutes earlier and experienced more favorable sleep times overall.
“For adolescents, the harms of insufficient sleep are wide-ranging and include impaired cognition and engagement in antisocial behavior,” said study author Stephanie L. Mayne, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. “This makes identifying strategies to prevent and treat the problem critical. Our findings suggest that neighborhood noise and green space may be important targets for interventions.”