The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.
As a new school year starts for teenagers, sleep health researchers are shining a light on some of the most common myths held by parents and caregivers about their teens’ sleep. A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system, enlisted the help of experts in adolescent sleep to identify myths.
Brigham researchers then surveyed parents and caregivers, finding that more than two-thirds believed in the top three most salient myths about sleep, including myths about the safety of taking melatonin supplements, the ineffectiveness of later school start times, and the harmlessness of altered bed and wake times on the weekend. In a paper published in Sleep Health, the authors explore the prevalence of each myth and present counter evidence to refute them.
“Adolescents face myriad barriers when it comes to sleep, some of which are physiological and others behavioral. Given these challenges, it is critical to reduce any modifiable barriers that stand in the way for young people when it comes to sleep. Our goal was to identify common adolescent sleep myths and inspire future public outreach and education efforts to promote evidence-based beliefs about sleep health,” said corresponding author Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D., Investigator at the Brigham’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“Caregivers and adolescents commonly turn to the Internet and social media for guidance on topics such as sleep. Although these platforms can be sources of evidence-based information, there is the chance that misinformation can proliferate on these platforms.”
The researchers surveyed 200 parents and caregivers about 10 sleep myths identified by experts. Some of the prevalent myths that Robbins and colleagues identified and deconstructed include:
Myth: “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.”
Myth: “If school starts later, adolescents will stay up that much later.”
Myth: “Melatonin supplements are safe for an adolescent because they are natural.”