Prichard believes that it’s not just college, with its de rigueur late nights of studying and socializing, that makes young adults so sleep deprived: Many high school students enter higher education already in serious sleep debt.
The overprogrammed schedule of the typical teen, combined with early high-school start times that run counter to the developmental needs of the teenage brain, make it nearly impossible for an adolescent to get all the sleep they need, Prichard said.
“Society is failing teens. We have a whole generation who do not know what it feels like to get enough sleep. Teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. They’re not getting that. I’m not surprised we are seeing rising rates of depression and anxiety alongside their decreasing sleep.” And sleep deprivation aggravates mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, Prichard explained.
“People who are chronically sleep deprived are nine times more likely to show depression symptoms and 17 times more likely to show anxiety symptoms. Research has shown that a lack of sleep ramps up your stress response so that you are much more likely to view normal behavior as a threat.” When a person is behind on their sleep, Prichard continued, “They are much more likely to become stressed about life.”