It’s the words uttered by millions of parents across the globe every night — “Get to bed, you need your sleep.” Too bad most teenagers take these words for granted, staying up late night after night, never considering the consequences. Today millions of teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders like narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Unfortunately, too many will never seek treatment because they won’t recognize they have a sleeping disorder in the first place. Here are some facts about sleep for teenagers, including the consequences of not getting enough and some solutions for teens to get the sleep they need.
With enough sleep teens eat better and manage the stress of being a teen much better. But the reality is most teens have irregular sleep patterns, typically staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need 9 ¼ hours of sleep while the majority sleep less than 8 ½ hours on school nights. This affects their biological clocks and the quality of their sleep.
Sleep deprivation favors no man – adult nor teenager. When teens don’t get enough sleep their ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems is limited. It can even mean forgetting important information like names, numbers, their homework or a date with a special someone. Tired of acne? Lack of sleep makes you more prone to pimples. Gaining weight? Sleep deprivation causes you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods which leads to weight gain. When you don’t get enough sleep you’re crabby, impatient with teachers, family members and friends. Sleep deprivation also contributes to illnesses, not using equipment safely and driving drowsy, a cause of many deadly car accidents.
If your teen is experiencing any of the above symptoms of sleep deprivation, there are changes you and your teen can make that will help. Make sleep a priority and change your schedule to accommodate it. Naps aren’t just for toddlers. Taken for the right amount of time (20 minutes) and not too close to bed time, they’re a great way to make you work more efficiently. Make your teens room a sleep haven by keeping it dark, quiet and cool. Most importantly, supply them with a quality mattress to support them as they sleep and continue to grow. Avoid consuming caffeine found in soda, tea and chocolate close to bedtime. Nicotine and alcohol also affect sleep. Establishing a regular bedtime and sticking to it is essential as it will help you feel less tiered and allow your body to get in sync with its natural patterns.
It’s also a good idea to plan ahead. Don’t leave homework until the last minute. Making a list of important tasks and getting them done before a late hour will help you to go to sleep faster. An hour before you go to sleep, avoid watching TV, working on the computer, talking or texting on the phone as it will allow your body to fall asleep more easily.
Making some of these changes will improve your teen’s school attendance and their chances of arriving to school on time when school starts. When teens are more alert and in better moods, they’re less likely to feel depressed and more likely to earn better grades. Sleep is an essential part of your health and well-being.