Good sleep is important at any age... but for kids and young adults, insomnia can lead to a lifetime of poor health, bad habits and even mental illness.
Two new studies paint a portrait of what can happen when kids and young adults spend too much time awake--and it's not the kind of picture you want in the family scrapbook.
In the first study, researchers examined the sleeping habits of nearly 20,000 people between 17 and 24 years old, and found that more than half were getting less than six hours of sleep each night, while just 25 percent got between eight and nine hours per night.
And the researchers found that those with the lower levels of sleep had higher levels of psychological distress than those who spent enough time in the sack, according to the study published in the journal Sleep.
Researchers believe that distress could turn into serious psychological problems such as depression and bipolar disorders as these insomniac youths grow older.
In a second study, researchers found that teens who miss out on sleep also have the worst eating habits--setting them up for a lifetime of poor health and disease.
Researchers followed 240 teens for periods of up to a week, using wrist meters to track sleep and interviewing them twice a day about what they ate and how much they ate.
They found that just 34 percent slept eight or more hours a night--and that these good sleepers had a very different diet than those who didn't sleep as much.
In fact, they found that teens who slept less than eight hours a night consumed 1,968 calories per day--versus 1,723 calories a day among those who slept eight hours or more.
That's 245 extra calories a day... or 7350 extra calories per month, which adds up to more than three full days of extra eating. Over the course of a year, that's nearly an extra month and a half of meals.
What's more, the sleepless youths were eating more fat-- and not the healthy fats that come along with a good low- carb or Mediterranean lifestyle, because the researchers say those who slept the least were consuming the most junk.
With so much at stake every night, parents need to be vigilant about setting bedtime rules, and enforcing them.
It's not just a good habit to keep for a lifetime... it's a great habit that will lead to a better, longer lifetime.