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Adolescent sleep myths: identifying false beliefs that impact adolescent sleep and well-being

Published:September 27, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2022.08.001

      Abstract

      Objective

      Commonly held beliefs about sleep unsupported by scientific evidence (ie, myths) among adolescents and their parents/caregivers may adversely influence sleep-related attitudes and behaviors among adolescents. Thus, identifying such myths with the goal of developing effective evidence-based counter-messages has the potential to improve sleep health in adolescents.

      Method

      We identified myths with a panel of adolescent sleep health experts (n = 12) using the Delphi method in three sequential steps: (1) focus groups; (2) online discussion; and (3) closed-ended questionnaires with which the experts rated myths on: (1) falseness and (2) public health significance using 5-point Likert scales ranging from 1 (not at all false/important for public health) to 5 (extremely false/important for public health). Next, we explored the prevalence of the myths among a demographically diverse sample of parents/caregivers of adolescents in the United States. Finally, we report the counterevidence to refute each myth.

      Results

      Ten myths about adolescent sleep were identified by the experts using the Delphi method. The most prevalent myths were the beliefs that (1) “Going to bed and waking up late on the weekends is no big deal for adolescents, as long as they get enough sleep during that time,” reported by 74% of parents/caregivers; (2) “If school starts later, adolescents will stay up that much later,” reported by 69% of parents/caregivers; and (3) “Melatonin supplements are safe for adolescents because they are natural,” reported by 66% of parents/caregivers.

      Conclusion

      Parents/caregivers have the potential to serve as sleep health advocates for their adolescent and support their adolescent's sleep health behaviors. Our study found that many parents/caregivers endorse myths about adolescent sleep that may hinder their ability to support their adolescent's sleep health. Future research may explore methods for promoting evidence-based beliefs about adolescent sleep among parents/caregivers.

      Keywords

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