Categories: Sleep Science

Teens and Sleep

The debate about teens and sleep has been raging for many years. Scientific evidence suggests, however, that parents really should give their teens a bit of a break for sleeping in on weekends. It seems that growing teen bodies need a little more sleep than the average adult. More importantly, the average teen, 90 percent of teens according a recent Journal of School Health study, are not getting their daily recommend hours of sleep.

Why is Sleep so Important for Teens?

Sleep is important for good health, no matter what your age. However, teens often grow at alarming rates. Thus, they need constant nourishment to support that growth and sleep in order to restore what’s been lost during their busy days.

Teens today have demanding academic schedules and expectations. Some of them are involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. Even more of them have part time jobs that take away from their abilities to sleep as well. All of these can contribute to a viscous cycle of late bedtimes, weekend sleep-ins, and being tired during the school week.

Losing a few hours here and there might not seem like much of a big deal, but there are serious short and long-term implications for doing so including, according to a recent National Public Radio report and the National Sleep Foundation, the following:

  • Increased eating and snacking
  • Body storing extra fat
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Greater instances of acne outbreaks
  • Aggression
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Lower immunity
  • Heightens effects of alcohol and other drugs

The first two are particularly problematic when faced with an obesity epidemic in this country. Numerous studies have noted the correlation between obesity and sleep.

How Much Sleep do Teens Need?

According to Teens Health, teens need between 8.5 and over 9 hours of sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation says that some teens need as much as 9.25 hours of sleep each night. Most teens average between six and seven hours of sleep on any given night. It makes a huge difference. Unfortunately, this is also a time when the natural circadian rhythm of the body (your body’s internal clock) resets to favor sleeping later and waking up later so that some teens have difficulty falling asleep later at night.

Combining the fact that teens aren’t getting enough sleep as it is with all the demands of being a teen such as parental pressure to perform well in school, increased need to study hard to make the grades, sports and other activities, can lead to stressful teen years for many.

How Can You Help Your Teen get More Sleep?

While you can’t add a few hours to the day, as tempting as that sounds for all of us, there are things you can do that will help your teen capitalize on the sleep he or she is getting. These are a few excellent examples you can incorporate into your routine:

  • Encourage short naps – these naps need to last roughly 30 minutes and avoid allowing teens to fall into deep sleep, which can leave them even groggier upon waking.
  • Allow teens to sleep in, a little, on days off – keep the later wake time to within two hours of their normal waking time, however, in order to avoid problems sleeping at night or waking during the week.
  • Establish nightly bedtimes – this is the time when lights go out, electronics go off, and teens are in bed going to sleep. You may allow soft, soothing music on the radio and/or white noise, however.

Sleep, for teens, is more important than many parents realize. That’s why it’s so important for parents today to take the necessary steps to ensure their teens are getting an adequate amount.

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