Teens who stay up late on school nights -- whether it be due to homework, chatting online with friends or late sports practices -- may experience more academic and emotional problems than their peers who are earlier to bed, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that teens who went to bed later than 11:30 p.m. on school nights and 1:30 a.m. in the summer had lower GPAs than teens who got to bed earlier. They were also more susceptible to emotional problems.
"This very important study adds to the already clear evidence that youth who are night owls are at greater risk for adverse outcomes," study researcher Allison Harvey, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, said in a statement. "Helping teens go to bed earlier may be an important pathway for reducing risk."
The Journal of Adolescent Health study included 2,700 teens in grades 7 to 12 who were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Researchers analyzed their sleep habits and circadian patterns. About 30 percent of the teens said they went to bed later than 11:30 p.m. on school nights and 1:30 a.m. in the summer.
An association was found between going to bed later and getting less sleep (though this association was not found in the summertime, and sleep duration was not associated with changes in educational and emotional outcomes later on). The researchers also found an association between going to bed late during the school year and having worse educational outcomes, as well as higher emotional distress, after six to eight years. Late summertime bedtimes were not linked with academic outcomes, but were linked to higher emotional distress.
"These findings underscore the significance of evaluating and monitoring bedtime in adolescents and the importance of intervention strategies that target bedtimes in an effort to reduce associated functional impairments, and improve academic and emotional outcomes," the researchers wrote in the study.
The findings add to past research also suggesting an association between late nights and poorer academic performance among teens. One study, presented at the SLEEP meeting in 2007, showed that teens who stay up late during the week and then oversleep on the weekends do worse in school. The researchers of that study, from Brown University, noted that this association may be due to the fact that their internal clocks are unable to properly readjust to a new routine on weekends, when they have to wake up so early during weekdays for school.