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Sleep-Deprived Teens' Disturbing Thoughts

A new study shows that teens who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts -- in some cases -- much more likely.

Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York found that earlier bedtimes can help protect adolescents from such tendencies, reports CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

That flies in the face of the common perception that teens need less sleep than people in other age groups.

It's been estimated that adolescents need a little more than nine hours of sleep per night.

Those in the study whose parents set bedtimes of midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 20 percent more apt to have thoughts of suicide, compared to those with bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier, the researchers report in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

And those who got five hours of sleep or less per night were 71 percent more likely to report being depressed, and 40 percent more likely to think of suicide.

The study's lead researcher, James Gangwisch, Ph.D., told CBS News the study "bolsters the argument that a lack of sleep can cause depression.

" ... The study points out how important it is to get adequate amounts of sleep. We are always trying to accomplish more and, in doing so, get less sleep. But studies in the past have shown that focus is down when you haven't gotten enough sleep. So, when you get less sleep you might actually be less productive.

"We all must put higher priority on sleeping. We feel like we can just eat into our sleep time, but we pay for it in many different ways."

Ganswisch says too little sleep "may affect how the brain responds to aversive stimuli and hinder the ability to cope with daily stress. It could also affect judgment, concentration and impulse control."

Parents, he adds, should "try as much as possible to sell teenagers on the importance of getting enough sleep -- even if it seems they don't need as much as younger children. Parents should be working with the adolescent on how much sleep they should be getting. It should be an open discussion ... how important sleep is. even if they try for a few nights to get more sleep and they see how much better they feel. Research shows that adolescents still need (those) nine hours of sleep a night to be at their best."

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