Insufficient sleep among high school–aged students is associated with an increased risk of unintentional injuries, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Data were analyzed from 50,370 high school students who participated in national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) in 2007, 2009, 2011, or 2013. Students responded to questions about average sleep duration on a school night, demographic characteristics, and how frequently students wore a bicycle helmet, wore a seatbelt, rode in the car with a drunk driver, drove a car while drunk themselves, or texted or emailed while driving a car.

The researchers found that 6.3% of survey respondents reported an average of 4 or fewer hours of sleep; 10.5% reported 5 hours, 21.9% reported 6 hours, 30.1% reported 7 hours, 23.5% reported 8 hours, 5.8% reported 9 hours, and 1.8% reported 10 or more hours. Female students were more likely to receive insufficient sleep – 71.3% reported 7 or fewer hours, compared with 66.4% male students.

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The researchers found that the likelihood of engaging in 1 of the 5 risk behaviors was increased in students reporting sleep durations of 7 or fewer hours. Students who slept for 8 hours were also more likely to drink and drive.

“Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for adolescents, with approximately two-thirds of these fatalities related to road traffic crashes,” wrote Ann G. Wheaton, PhD, of the Division of Population Health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC.

“Although insufficient sleep contributes to injury risk by slowing reaction time, impairing ability to pay attention, or causing a driver to fall asleep, this study provides evidence that some of the increased risk associated with insufficient sleep might be caused by engaging in injury-related risk behaviors,” Dr Wheaton concluded.


  1. Wheaton AG, Olsen EO, Miller GF, et al. Sleep duration and injury-related risk behaviors among high school students – United States, 2007-2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65:337-341; doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6513a1