Being strict with teens' bedtimes can help them get more sleep

Teens who like to go to bed late and sleep late may have a higher risk of asthma, according to new research.

New US research has found that parents who impose strict bedtimes on their teens could be helping them to get more sleep.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Rochester, the new study looked at 193 adolescents aged 14 to 17 and their parents.

The teenagers were asked to fill in a sleep diary twice a day over a period of seven days, reporting on their sleep duration, daytime energy levels and depressive symptoms, while parents were asked if they enforced times for bed or any other bedtime rules.

The findings, published in the journal Sleep, showed that more than 50 percent of parents reported that they set no specific or enforced bedtime rules for their kids, which is consistent with responses from parents in previous research across the US.

However, the researchers found that parent-enforced bedtimes, along with later school start times, had the biggest positive effect on teenagers' sleep duration, daytime energy level and symptoms of depression.

Perhaps surprisingly, consuming caffeine or using a screen in the evening did not affect teenagers' sleep duration.

Jack Peltz, lead author of the study, acknowledges that telling kids when to go to bed can be difficult, but says that "ideally parents should be able to work collaboratively with their teenagers to develop bedtimes that still support the child's autonomy."

Co-author Ronald Rogge agrees that parents may need to step in and impose a time on their teens, adding that "even though adolescents start gaining self-sufficiency and independence, they still need sleep and might not prioritize that if left to their own devices."

The recommended amount of sleep for teenagers is 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night, as recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

However, the researchers add that the bedtime set by parents should depend on the wake-up time. "It's inherently more difficult for teenagers to fall asleep earlier than later because of their circadian rhythm," says co-author Heidi Connolly. "That's why it's so important for high school start times to be later, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended across the board."

The researchers add that the aim of a good night's sleep for teens is that they wake up spontaneously at around the scheduled wake-up time, even when allowed to sleep in, and that they feel well-rested during the day.