Virginia teenagers do slightly better than the national average when it comes to getting an appropriate amount of sleep, but most teens don’t come close to meeting the threshold.
Just over one in four (25.4%) of Virginia teens get an average of eight hours of sleep, which is what federal guidelines suggest is appropriate. While low, it’s still higher than the national average (22.1%).
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers should sleep between eight and 10 hours for every 24-hour cycle.
This level of sleep is associated with a number of better physical and mental health outcomes, including lower risk of obesity and fewer problems with attention and behavior.
From 2007 to 2013, just under one-third of teens reported getting at least eight hours of sleep per night. In 2015, that number began to fall, and by 2019, only 22.1 percent of teens were meeting that threshold.
One likely contributing factor is a rise in device usage over the same span. In 2007 – the same year that the iPhone launched – 24.9 percent of teens were spending more than three hours on their phone or computer in a given day. In 2019, that figure had risen to 46.1 percent.
While the overall numbers for teens’ sleep habits are concerning, some subgroups are getting more sleep than others.
Age is one factor: as teenagers get older, the share reporting that they sleep at least eight hours declines. Among 9th-graders, 28.9 percent are sleeping more than eight hours, but for 11th- and 12th-graders, only around 17 percent are.
There is also a separation along gender lines, with 23.8 percent of males receiving adequate sleep compared to just 20.3 percent of females.
Another difference among teens’ sleep habits is geography. Teenagers in different states report different levels of sleep, along with other related habits like regular exercise or time spent with a phone, computer or TV.
For example, a mere 15.7 percent of teenagers in New Jersey are getting enough sleep, just over half the percentage of better-rested teens in Montana (29.9%), the state with the highest reported share.
The data used in this analysis is from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which surveys a representative sample of students in 9th through 12th grades in U.S. schools. To determine the states where teens don’t sleep, researchers at ChamberOfCommerce.org calculated the percentage of high-school students who reported getting eight hours of sleep on an average school night.
(To see the full report, go to https://www.chamberofcommerce.org/states-where-teens-do-not-get-enough-sleep/.)
Late in 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General released a new advisory on youth mental health, drawing attention to rising rates of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation and other mental-health issues among young Americans.
According to data cited in the advisory, up to one in five U.S. children aged 3 to 17 had a reported mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder.
Many of these worrying conditions predated the COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened mental health for many young people by disrupting their routines, limiting their social interactions and increasing stress about the health of loved ones.
These trends in youth mental health can be attributed in part to detrimental shifts in young people’s lifestyle over time, including increased academic stress, growing use of digital media and worsening health habits.