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Many teenagers, often labeled as lazy by adults, naturally prefer staying up late. Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco argue against simply using alarm clocks as a solution. A recent study suggests a new sleep-wake therapy to help teens align with their natural sleep cycles, allowing them to balance their inclination to be night owls with school responsibilities.

Night owls should adjust sleep time to earlier

The education system and society generally do not cater to late-sleeping teens, causing difficulties for approximately 40% of them who are night owls. This demographic, especially those with depression (80%), struggles with late-night sleep patterns. Researchers propose improving the well-being of adolescents by teaching night owls to organize their lives for later sleep and gradually adjusting their sleep time to be a bit earlier.

According to Dr. Lauren Asarnow, a clinical psychologist at UCSF Health, A significant discovery indicates that a subgroup of adolescents benefits significantly from prioritizing sleep to alleviate depression symptoms. Asarnow also underscores the importance of aligning their lifestyle with their natural sleep-wake patterns for improved well-being.

Transdiagnostic sleep and circadian intervention can address sleep problems

The study conducted by UCSF analyzed data from 42 clinically depressed participants in a larger study of 176 night owl adolescents. Twenty-four participants underwent the Transdiagnostic Sleep and Circadian Intervention (TransS-C), while the remaining 18 received educational sessions on leading a healthy lifestyle. All participants maintained sleep diaries, used sleep quality measurement devices, and attended weekly 45-minute therapy sessions for eight weeks.

In a recent study, all teens initially scored at least 40 on the Children’s Depression Rating Scale, indicating clinically significant depression. After a six-month intervention, the treated group’s average score dropped to 21.67, while the healthy lifestyle group scored 32.5. Twelve months post-treatment, the intervention cohort scored 24.97, compared to the control group at 32.75.

Dr Asarnow concludes that in psychiatry and psychology clinics there is a saying that the best treatment for anxiety and depression is a summer break. There is need to stop calling teens lazy because most of the time it is not their fault but just biology.