There is no question that sleep is important and when it comes to teenagers, getting enough sleep may be the key to everything from getting good grades to maintaining a healthy weight. Recent research has demonstrated how significant an impact sleep deprivation has on cognitive behavior, the immune system, our metabolism, and even our personal relationships. When you consider what is going on in a teenagers life, all the changes they are undergoing, those findings make it clear why sleep can be such a game changer.
Teens who are sleep deprived may struggle in school because their cognitive abilities are impaired. They may have trouble with memory, concentration, and focus. If they are struggling to stay awake during class, they are missing material and missing out on the chance to participate and expand their understanding. If they aren’t getting enough sleep, they may lack the energy they need to participate in sports or after school activities and be more susceptible to any illness that comes along. They may struggle in their relationships with friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and parents simply because they lack sleep. This all by itself can have devastating and long range consequences involving their self esteem and their ability to build and sustain long-term personal relationships. Teens that aren’t getting the sleep they need are also more likely to participate in risky behavior like drinking, smoking, and being sexually active.
It is a myth that teenagers need less sleep than their parents. However, there is some evidence that teenagers may struggle to get the sleep they need because their circadian rhythm is not compatible with their schedule. Teenagers still need a solid 9 hours of sleep each night, but their bodies seem to be hardwired not to fall asleep until 11 or 12 at night. This means that it is almost impossible for them to get enough sleep and still be on time for school. There are some things that parents can do to help, however, short of trying to get the school to change its start time or deciding to home school your teens.
Getting the sleep you need at night, like many other things in life, is often a matter of habit. If you have a habit of staying up later than you should, using a computer in bed, exercising in the evening, or drinking a bunch of caffeine right before bed, you may find it difficult to fall asleep and the same goes for your teen. Make sure everyone is getting a good night sleep by creating, reinforcing, and modeling healthy sleep habits like going to bed and getting up at the same time everyday and avoiding activities in the hours before bedtime that are known to be sleep stealers.
One of the reasons so many Americans are running on empty sleep-wise is that we don’t assign the appropriate value to sleep. Make sleep a priority and your teens will too.
- 12 Facts About Sleep Inertia (valleysleepcenter.com)
- SCORE! How Sleep Affects Standardized Testing (valleysleepcenter.com)
- The Affect of Sleep on the Immune System (valleysleepcenter.com)