Columbia University Medical Center

Study Links Later Parental-Mandated Bedtimes For Teens With Depression & Suicidal Thoughts

NEW YORK (June 9, 2009) – A new reason to encourage parents to set and enforce bedtimes for their children and adolescents: New research from Columbia University Medical Center has demonstrated that teens with earlier parental mandated bedtimes got more sleep and had fewer cases of depression and suicidal ideation. The data strengthens the argument that getting enough sleep protects against depression and suicidal thoughts in teens.

The research was presented on Tuesday, June 9 at the 2009 SLEEP conference in Seattle, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Led by James Gangwisch, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical psychiatric social work (in psychiatry) at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the study examined data from 15,659 adolescents. A total of 1,143 teens (7.3 percent) suffered from depression and 2,038 (13 percent) had suicidal thoughts. Adolescents with parental-mandated bedtimes at midnight or later were 25 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation compared with adolescents who had parental-mandated bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier.

“It is a common perception and societal expectation that adolescents do not need as much sleep as preadolescents, yet studies suggests that adolescents may actually require more sleep,” said Gangwisch. “Studies have found that adolescents do not go to bed early enough to compensate for earlier school start times, and transitions to earlier school start times have been shown to be associated with significant sleep deprivation.”

According to Dr. Gangwisch, the study supports the argument that inadequate sleep could lead to depression. “Adolescents with later parental-mandated bedtimes went to bed later, got less sleep, and were less likely to get enough sleep. Short sleep duration explained the relationship between parental-mandated bedtimes and depression, functioning as a risk factor for depression and suicidal ideation.”

In this epidemiological study, Dr. Gangwisch and his team looked at parental-mandated bedtimes, rather than adolescent reported bedtimes because the presence of depression in an adolescent can affect their choice of bedtime, but it would not be expected to affect their parent’s choice of a set bedtime. They found that adolescents whose parents mandated earlier bedtimes went to bed earlier, got more sleep, were more likely to report getting enough sleep, and were less likely to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation. The actual time adolescents went to bed closely matched what time their parents told them to go to bed.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that teens get a little more than nine hours of sleep per night. Tips from the AASM to help parents establish an appropriate bedtime for their teen are available at

SLEEP 2009 brings together an international body of 6,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,300 research abstracts will be presented at SLEEP 2009, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society. The scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

Abstract Title: Earlier parental mandated bedtimes for adolescents as a protective factor against depression and suicidal ideation as mediated by sleep duration
Presentation Date: Tuesday, June 9
Category: Sleep in Psychiatric Disorders
Abstract ID: 1064

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Columbia Psychiatry is ranked among the best departments and psychiatric research facilities in the nation and has contributed greatly to the understanding of and current treatment for psychiatric disorders. Located at the New York State Psychiatric Institute on the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center campus in the Washington Heights community of Upper Manhattan, the department enjoys a rich and productive collaborative relationship with physicians in various disciplines at Columbia University’s College of Physician and Surgeons. Columbia Psychiatry is home to distinguished clinicians and researchers noted for their clinical and research advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide, schizophrenia, bipolar and anxiety disorders, and childhood psychiatric disorders. For more information, please visit

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the most comprehensive medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. Columbia University Medical Center is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital provider. For more information, please visit