Attempting to get a teenager to a class that begins at 7 a.m. can be a herculean task at times. For parents, it’s almost impossible to get your adolescent to sleep at a “decent” hour. Researchers say that getting a teenager up at 6 a.m. disrupts certain chemical and physical changes that are taking place in your teenager’s body. These early wake times might be the reason your teenager is so sleepy throughout the day.

The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine published information explaining that a teenager’s biological clock is the one calling the shots about the right time for bed. During puberty, sleep time for youth extends later into the night, which the medical journal describes as “a 2-hour sleep-wake ‘phase delay.’”

Teenagers typically require between 8.5 and 9 hours of sleep a night and that would mean that with a 6 a.m. wake up call, you’d have to have them in bed and sleeping by 9 p.m. – a nearly impossible task for many parents. The biological clock of a teenager though is programmed to set the time for sleep past 10 p.m. because that’s when an adolescent starts to calm down and the body naturally gets ready for sleep. Going against nature’s clock is displayed during morning classes when teens sleep on their desks, don’t pay attention, or have a hard time remembering the lessons due to feeling tired. Chronically lacking sleep has adverse effects on a developing body; the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine listed several health impacts of teenagers who get little sleep, including alterations in mood, behavior, memory and attention.

As with adults, a sleepy teenager can also increase the risk of a car accident. Sleepy teens may also partake less in physical activities, have a higher risk of becoming overweight and simply a diminished enjoyment for things in life. The Stanford Sleep Clinic says that lack of sleep can contribute to depression in teenagers and lower their immune systems, making students more susceptible to illness.

School performance is another important factor that is affected. Would shifting the start times for classes help relieve sleep deprivation on a teen? It could be a solution but other research shows that changing the start time of school puts pressure on the whole community to adapt to the change. A later start time would impact school bus schedules, after school activities and parent work schedules. A later start time could also impact a teen’s ability to get an after school job. While it doesn’t appear that school districts and communities are going to embrace later start times, you can try and help your teen get more, and better, sleep.

As a parent, you have options to make your child’s bedroom more conducive to sleep by having the bedroom be free of electronics, be at a temperature that is conducive to sleeping and have the room be dark.

Make certain your teen relaxes without electronic devices 30 minutes before sleep, have them read a book, lounge in a bathtub or shower. Get your teen involved in physical activities after school because that could lead to better sleep.

Sleeping in on the weekend to let your teen “catch up” on missed sleep during the week is not a solution either. Allowing your child to sleep more than two or three hours later than their regular schedule further upsets their biological clocks.

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for their patients. Their physicians are Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists and are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. They provide diagnostic testing for a multitude of sleep-related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking and pediatric sleep problems. For information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900.

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