Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of parenting a teenager, and there are plenty, is getting them out of bed in the morning. There is no easy or gentle way to do it. One must turn on the lights, pull back the covers and announce loudly that it is time to arise. Chances are, part or all of this process must be repeated at least twice. The constant morning struggle can wear on parents who wonder why their teenager is always dragging. There is a growing trend of sleep deprivation in teens.
Sadly, the answer to teenage sluggishness is simple but not often utilized. Teenagers in America are severely sleep deprived; they desperately need more sleep. According to the CDC, teenagers need eight to ten hours of sleep a night, while they get an average of seven hours a night. That is a sleep deficit of one to three hours every night! What is frightening is that study after study shows us that this type of sleep loss cannot be made up or replaced. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on ones physical, mental and emotional health.
The National Sleep Foundation states, “Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.” Their research also reveals the serious consequences of teens not getting enough sleep. Some of the most serious include:
Trouble concentrating— A lack of sleep makes it harder for the brain to focus and retain information. This has repercussions for teens academically, socially and emotionally. It can cause them to do poorly in class, feel disorganized and even forget important commitments they have made.
Emotional instability— Oftentimes teens are missing out on sleep in exchange for time spent on social media. Some research suggests teens that have excessive “screen time” are more prone to feelings of loneliness and depression. Sleep deprivation itself is also directly related to some forms of mental illness.
Increased feelings of aggression— Just as it is with anyone, tired teenagers might have trouble controlling feelings of anger and aggression. Frustration over challenging situations boils over resulting in inappropriate treatment of teachers and even friends and family members.
Weight gain— Lack of sleep has been directly linked to obesity. Teens who get less sleep are more likely to make poor food choices and are less likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity each day, again contributing to trouble sleeping.
Drowsy driving— People who get six to seven hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to get in a sleep-related car accident. In a National Sleep Foundation poll, 60 percent of parents reported having never talked to their teenage drivers about the dangers of drowsy driving. Meanwhile, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of drowsy driving every year. This is a great cause for concern given the amount of sleep most teenagers get on average.
Teenagers face the same challenges that most adults face when it comes to getting enough sleep. However, sleep deprivation in teens is more prevalent and comes with greater consequences. It doesn’t help that early school start times, extra curricular activities and homework demand more time than is probably reasonable. The best way parents can help their teen is explain the importance of getting enough sleep. Make it a family priority to develop healthy sleep habits, including keeping electronics out of the bedroom. Significant lifestyle changes never come easily, but considering the risk of keeping the status quo, it is a worthwhile sacrifice.