Adequate sleep (at least seven hours for adults, eight to ten hours for teens) is vital to a healthy lifestyle. Sleep plays a key role in maintaining learning ability, memory, emotional resilience, problem solving, decision making, repair of the body and emotional control. Sleep deprivation can have serious negative health effects (1).

Getting enough sleep each night is as critical to our health as nutrition and physical activity. With 25 percent of adults in the United States reporting insufficient sleep at least 15 out of every 30 days, lack of sleep is becoming a crucial determinant of health and well-being. Insufficient sleep can cause negative health effects and impede development in infants, children and adolescents (2). Children and adolescents who are sleep deprived may have impaired behavior, mood and performance (3). Sleep loss and sleep disorders can influence behavior patterns that negatively impact family health and interpersonal relationships. Additionally, sleepiness can lower worker productivity and increase the likelihood of motor vehicle and industrial accidents (2). It’s recommended that adults should sleep seven or more hours each night, while adolescents are recommended at least eight and a half hours. Insufficient sleep (short sleep), is defined as less than seven hours of sleep daily (4).

Adequate sleep is vital to:

• immune system health and the ability to fight off disease and infection,
• supporting a healthy metabolism,
• performing well at work or school, and
• working effectively and safely (2).

Insufficient sleep has been linked to an increased risk for many chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity and depression. Whereas sufficient sleep, has been identified as a protective factor for preventing chronic disease. Some of the causes for insufficient sleep include lifestyle factors such as excessive screen time late at night, inconsistent bedtimes and work schedules, such as night-shift work. Additionally, some medical conditions and medications can impede sleep, for instance sleep apnea (4). Adolescents who are chronically sleep deprived are at risk for a number of negative health consequences, such as being overweight, suffering from depression, getting in automobile accidents, having poor grades and test scores and experiencing a lower quality of life overall. Nationally, it’s estimated that 59 percent of middle school and 87 percent of high school students are not meeting the recommended eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep a night (5).

Source: CDC, BRFSS, 2016, Available at:

*Indicates that the prevalence of this risk factor is significantly higher for Colorado adults that reported shorter sleep duration.

Despite the importance of sufficient sleep to health, most of the public is unaware of how much sleep they need, their level of sleep deprivation and the negative effects this lack of sleep has on their health and well-being. A study of health care screenings at primary care clinics found that only 43 percent had included sleep-related questions in their patient screening. This compared to 100 percent including questions for smoking and alcohol, 93 percent for healthy eating and 86 percent for physical activity, indicates the lack of awareness of this health issue (3). Additionally, within our own county, school start times for middle and high school students are all earlier than times recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends delaying the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later (5).

Implications and Data for Jefferson County

Community Health Needs Assessment Focus Group Findings

School start times and the effects on youth health through reduced sleep was a significant concern of the participants from the focus group held in Conifer. Participants noted that new research showed adolescents need more sleep than current school start times allow. The health impacts can include affected sleep patterns and drowsy driving.

Community Health Needs Assessment Key Informant Interviews Findings

No issues were reported by key informants around sleep.


Sources: CO Child Health Survey (2014-2016), HKCS (2015), YRBS (2015), Colorado BRFSS (2014-2016), CDC BRFSS (2015)

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 AM or later.

Owens, J. (2014).

Health Disparities and Inequities

The prevalence of short sleep duration varies noticeably by gender, age and race/ethnicity within Colorado. Overall 28.5 percent of adults in the state reported inadequate sleep, with African-Americans and multi-racial individuals having the least sleep at 48.8 percent and 39.5 percent respectively (4). 


Resources List

1. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2018). Insufficient Sleep. Retrieved from:

2. Healthy People 2020 (2018, May 30). Sleep Health. Retrieved from:

3. Perry G, Patil S, Presley-Cantrell L. (2013). Raising Awareness of Sleep as a Healthy Behavior. Prev Chronic Dis, 10:130081. Retrieved from:

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016, November). Sleep and Health Among Adults in Colorado [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from:

5. American Academy of Pediatrics (2014, August 25). Let them sleep: AAP recommends delaying start times of middle and high schools students to combat teen sleep deprivation. Retrieved from:

6. Owens, J. (2014). Adolescent Sleep Working Group, Committee on Adolescence, and Council on School Health (2014), School start times for adolescents. Pediatrics 134: 642-649. Retrieved from:


Data Sources

CDC, BRFSS Report: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey:

Colorado Child Health Survey:

HKCS: Healthy Kids Colorado Survey:

YRBS: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System:

Colorado BRFSS: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey:

CDC BRFSS: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey:

Jefferson County Public Schools:

Published on July 17, 2018

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