New study finds sleep deprivation in teens increases risk of depression

baby 1151346 1280Schools start so early nowadays, don’t they? Your teen is up at the crack of dawn even though they’ve stayed up late doing homework or chatting online with their friends. This is a recipe for sleep deprivation in teens. The less sleep your teen gets, the more sleep debt builds up. It’s a vicious cycle of not getting enough sleep and being too involved in goings on at night to get some decent sleep.
It turns out that sleep deprivation in teens is doing more than making your teen sleepy in class. A new study suggests that sleep deprivation in teens may actually increase your teen’s risk of depression and anxiety disorders later on in life.

What was the research about?

Conducted by the University of Houston, the goal of the study was to explain the precise reasons why sleep deprivation in teens and children can create an increased risk for emotional struggles later on in life.
The researchers were interested in seeing how children expressed, regulated, and recalled emotional experiences when sleep is adequate and when it is inadequate. Similar to anxiety and depression, negative sleep patterns in childhood can predict and determine the habits individuals will have as adults.
In the study, researchers identified the specific emotional processes that increase vulnerability for anxiety and depression due to lack of sleep. Throughout the study, researchers temporarily restricted sleep for 50 pre-adolescent children between the ages of 7 and 11.

What did they find?

By not getting enough sleep, researchers found, children feel more negative emotions and the lack of sleep also negatively changes positive experiences on a day to day basis. After only a couple nights of inadequate sleep, children begin feeling the negative effects of sleep deprivation. They start reacting less to positive things and deriving less pleasure from things they once found enjoyable. They are less likely to recall details about positive experiences after they occur, as well.
Thinking about your child’s sleep the same way you’d think about their nutrition, physical activity, and dental hygiene is important, researchers say. Helping them get enough sleep improves their chances of getting better grades and being happier in general.

Helping your teen get enough sleep

It’s hard to set strict bedtimes for teens. After all, even if they do go their room to “sleep” they will probably just look on their phones or laptops until the wee hours of the morning. The best thing you can do is to implement a “no phones” policy past a certain time. Get your teen an old fashioned alarm clock so they don’t have to use their phone as an alarm.
Encourage your teen to start their homework earlier instead of later in order to get everything done before a set bedtime. Reading before bed may also help them get to sleep sooner than they would if they were to watch Netflix in bed.

Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for young people ages 10-17, can help your child struggling with emotional or behavioral issues find success.

For more information  about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303 today.

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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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