No sweet dreams for NZ teens

Last updated 12:58 04/12/2013

STRUGGLING: Around 40 per cent of Kiwi teens are affected by sleeping disorders.

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Depression, anxiety and alcohol are giving our teenagers less than sweet dreams.

And a lack of sleep is affecting academic and personal activities, memory, and the ability of the body to recharge. It is also leading some teens turn to substance abuse to get to sleep.

Almost 40 per cent of teenagers who took part in a recent sleep study by the University of Auckland and the Manukau District Health Board suffered from sleep disorders lasting more than a month.

The research, published in the Journal of Primary Health Care, found links between depression and anxiety, and sleep disorders. Alcohol also played a significant role in sleep disturbance.

The study found 37 per cent of the 1388 students from six North Island high schools surveyed had suffered from a sleep disorder.

And, it seems those going to single sex-schools are more prone to issues that affected their sleep - boys and girls from two single-sex schools had sleep issues at levels of about 50 per cent.

In the general population it is estimated 20 per cent to 30 per cent of people suffer from some type of sleep problem.

Depression and anxiety were the most common underlying symptoms (at 51 per cent and and 44 per cent respectively) while alcohol (12 per cent) was also high on the list, especially among Maori and Pacific youth.

Disorders, such as parasomnia and delayed sleep-phase disorder, which mean that people wake regularly during sleep were also relatively common.

The study found that sleep difficulties in this age group could increase the risk of substance abuse, affect personal and academic activities, memory, cognitive performance and the ability of the body to recharge.

Researchers said the study had the potential to help doctors better appreciate sleep disorders in young people.

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