According to a recent U.S. study, most teens don't get enough sleep. Researchers found that nearly 70 percent of high school teens were not getting the recommended eight hours or more a night. Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that in fact, adolescents need nine hours, and are typically the most sleep-deprived population.
Lack of Sleep Spirals into Dangerous Consequences
Unfortunately, lack of sleep causes all sorts of problems, the least of which may be a teen sleeping in on the weekend. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that sleep-deprived teens are more likely to seriously consider attempting suicide. They are also more likely to indulge in unhealthy behaviors like having sex, getting in physical fights, and engaging in substance abuse; they are also more likely to suffer from poor concentration, which can affect their schoolwork.
Lack of sleep dampens creativity, and can cause emotional problems and stunt growth. Some kids become so tired that they start to skip school altogether, while others end up in car crashes and other harmful accidents. Why are teens missing out on so many zzzzs, and what can you do to help your teen sleep better?
Why Teens Missing out on Sleep
Studies haven't yet zeroed in on the exact reasons why teens aren't getting enough sleep, but researchers have theories. Computers and televisions in a teen's room can interfere with the body's natural circadian rhythms, and disrupt sleep. Social networking and smart phones can keep teens communicating with friends way past their bedtimes. Some teens have jobs after school that continue far into the evening hours, or after-school activities that zap homework time. Classes are starting earlier and earlier, and many students feel overloaded with projects they're hard-pressed to finish in after-school hours.
Scientists say that teens need just as much or more sleep as pre-teens, but their ever-changing bedtimes can make sleep difficult. Staying up late one night can disrupt the body's clock for the next day, and sleeping in on the weekends can also make week-time sleep more difficult. Trips away for football games and volleyball tournaments can also completely destroy a teen's sleep schedule.
How to Help Teens Get More Sleep
How can you help your teen get more sleep without getting into a bunch of arguments and fights? Try the following tips, and remember that a well-rested teen is always easier to get along with!
Start with a talk. Have a talk with your teen about his sleeping habits, and express your concern for his health and well-being.
Work out a schedule. Help your teen map out a weekly schedule to manage all her activities. Take into account after-school sports, homework time, and private time. It's important to give your teen at least some time each night to talk with friends or just unwind. Work it into the schedule, and promise your teen you will honor her right to that time as long as she sticks with the rest of the schedule.
Create a family bedtime routine. Make it a house rule that computers and televisions go off at a certain time, no exceptions. Then allow children to choose between reading a book, drawing, journaling, or engaging in some other quiet activity before sleep.
Work with light. Your teen may say, "I'm not tired at 10pm!" If so, he's probably right. Teens have different circadian rhythms because of their changing bodies. Some school districts have had success improving teen's school performance by starting classes later in the morning. If your school district is oblivious to teen needs, work with light instead. Make everything dark at bedtime, and brighten up the house in the morning. Light patterns can help your teen gradually adjust to new sleeping times.
Make sure your teen's bedroom encourages sleep. Maybe your teen needs heavier curtains on the windows, more comfortable blankets, or fewer technological gadgets to make the room more sleep friendly. Work with your teen to make changes you both can be happy with.
Restrict late-night eating and drinking. Work out a deal with your teen. She can have her favorite soda once in awhile, but not at night. Caffeine and sugar tend to hype up the body, making sleep more difficult. Make it a rule that only water, milk, or herbal tea is permitted within an hour before bedtime.
Set an example. You can't send your teen to bed at 10pm and insist on no television if you keep your television on in the next room where he can hear it. Make the whole house quiet, so everyone can truly relax. After all, you probably need more sleep, too!