An area of study in health that has grown seemingly exponentially in the recent years is that of sleep. It is important for everyone however, when the body is changing or growing more sleep may be required. Sleep is also important when the body is repairing either from illness or injury. It has been shown that teens may require more sleep than was previously understood. Professional studies during the past 20 years support the belief that teenagers can require more than nine hours of sleep each night, and that they have different sleep and wake patterns from preadolescents and adults. However, there seems to be other studies that point to this being true for preteen and early teen years which may change in the later teen years. This is thought to be due to the hormone shift and changes in melatonin production. Lack of sleep can certainly affect school performance as well as attitude and ability to cope with stress.
Another factor that can play into this is a more sedentary lifestyle, extended use of electronic devices etc.
Northwestern University research indicates the nation’s teenagers need more sleep than they are getting. They often try to satisfy that need by sleeping in until noon or later on the weekend.
Yet in slight contrast, if standardized test performance is any indication, 16-year-olds score best with about seven hours of sleep a night, surprising new research finds.
Brigham Young University economists Eric Eide and Mark Showalter — who are also dads — used a nationally representative sample of 1,724 students, comparing children’s and teens’ standardized test scores with the amount of sleep they reported.
For older teens, seven hours a night was plenty. The optimal amount of sleep for 12-year-olds was higher, about eight hours, while 10-year-olds did best with about nine hours. The report appears in the current issue of the Eastern Economics Journal.
Consequences of insufficient sleep for youths are disheartening. The National Sleep Foundation points out some signs of sleep deprivation: difficulty arising in the morning; irritability in the afternoon; falling asleep during the day at school; having difficulty remembering or concentrating; waking up often and having trouble getting back to sleep.
Sleep deprivation can cause extreme moodiness, poor performance in school and aggression. Statistics also reveal that teenagers are at high risk of having car accidents because of falling asleep behind the wheel.
“It’s not worth it to stay up and just feel out of it the next day,” said 15-year-old McKenzie Wilson.
McKenzie knows what it’s like to be tired all the time.
“It was like a real struggle to get out of bed or wake up,” said McKenzie.
The teen slept 12 to 15 hours some nights, and only three to four hours on other nights.
Doctors diagnosed her with narcolepsy, a disorder that wouldn’t allow her to control her sleep patterns.
It stopped her from enjoying hobbies like photography, and from driving.
“I couldn’t get my license, and that was really scary,” said McKenzie.
Dr. Floyd Livingston, Division Chief of Pediatric Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at Nemours Children’s Hospital , says the lack of sleep in teens is causing more car accidents, more mental health problems like depression and poorer performance in school.
A National Sleep Foundation poll revealed most parents think their kids sleep enough, but 59 percent of middle school children and 87 percent of high school teens do not.
“Teenagers have less school performance, worse school performance and are complaining about feeling more sleepiness than they had in the past decade or more,” said Dr. Livingston.
Experts say teens need about eight to ten hours of sleep each night.
Dr. Livingston mentioned several tips to help teens get more sleep at bed time, like having teens set a schedule.
They should go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends.
If they want to nap during the day, make sure naps don’t last more than 30 minutes, and have them turn off and put away all electronics at least an hour before bed.
“The bedroom is just for sleep, so we try to take all the electronics out the bedroom,” said Dr. Livingston.
Now, McKenzie’s on a schedule and she makes sure she puts away all of her electronic devices before bed.
“Sleep is more important,” said McKenzie.
It’s helped her get a restful night so she can conquer the day.
However, biology is only part of the problem. Additional factors include a more relaxed attitude to bedtimes by parents, a general disregard for the importance of sleep, and access to TVs, DVDs, PCs, gaming devices, cell phones, and so on, all of which promote alertness and eat into time available for sleep.
The amount of sleep teenagers get varies between countries, geographic region, and social class, but all studies show they are going to bed later and not getting as much sleep as they need because of early school starts.
Now that we have shown the problem what are some suggested solutions.
- Make sleep a priority. Review sleep time with your teen. Decide what you need to change to get enough sleep to stay healthy, happy, and smart!
- Naps can help pick you up and make you work more efficiently, if you plan them right. Naps that are too long or too close to bedtime can interfere with your regular sleep.
- Make your room a sleep haven. Keep it cool, quiet and dark. If you need to, get eyeshades or blackout curtains. Let in bright light in the morning to signal your body to wake up.
- No pills, vitamins or drinks can replace good sleep. Consuming caffeine close to bedtime can hurt your sleep, so avoid coffee, tea, soda/pop and chocolate late in the day so you can get to sleep at night. Nicotine and alcohol will also interfere with your sleep.
- When you are sleep deprived, you are as impaired as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is illegal for drivers in many states. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 crashes each year. Recognize sleep deprivation and call someone else for a ride. Only sleep can save you!
- Establish a bed and wake-time and stick to it, coming as close as you can on the weekends. A consistent sleep schedule will help you feel less tired since it allows your body to get in sync with its natural patterns. You will find that it’s easier to fall asleep at bedtime with this type of routine.
- Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of your bedtime. Don’t leave your homework for the last minute. Try to avoid the TV, computer and telephone in the hour before you go to bed. Stick to quiet, calm activities, and you’ll fall asleep
The important point to remember is that as life changes and the body changes sleep requirements can change as well. It is wise to be aware of these changes to allow your body the proper support to function at its best. If you need help let us know.
Yours for Better Health, Dr. Shapero
EXPECT MIRACLES – WE DO