Teens’ internal clocks are different from ours, causing many to be sleep-deprived. This can affect their health and grades. Here’s how to get your teen back on track.
It’s 11:00 p.m. and your teen is still going strong, instant messaging friends on her computer. You remind her that she needs to wake up at 6 a.m. for school, but she says she’s not tired.
The next morning she hits snooze three times before dragging herself out of bed. She grumbles when you talk to her, snaps at her younger brother and shuffles off to school like a zombie. You wonder why she won’t just go to sleep at a decent hour.
Why teens don’t get enough sleep
Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep to be able to function well during the day. But their sleep-wake cycles are different from yours or a younger child’s. Many adolescents aren’t able to fall asleep before 11 p.m. or later. This means they need to sleep until at least 7:30 a.m. Most, though, need to rise between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. to get to school in time. This leaves many teens with a huge sleep deficit.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that six out of 10 high school students get less than eight hours of sleep each night. This can lead to uncomfortable and even dangerous consequences.
Effects of sleep deprivation
- Drowsy driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving accounts for more than 100,000 accidents each year. More than half of those crashes involve teen drivers. Of high school students who drive, about half admit to having driven while drowsy.
- Sleeping in class. One in four students reports falling asleep in class at least once a week.
- Psychological disorders. Research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to depression and trouble with impulse control, and make ADHD symptoms worse.
- Poor grades. Studies have shown that students who earn grades lower than B’s get about 25 minutes less sleep than those who get A’s and B’s.
- Trouble with concentration. Sleep deprivation can keep teens from learning, listening and being able to solve problems.
- Pimples. Sleep loss can contribute to acne and other skin disorders.
- Aggression and other behavioral problems.
- Illness, such as colds, because of the effects of sleep deprivation on the immune system.
Getting more sleep
Winding down to fall asleep is hard for someone who really isn’t sleepy. So is waking up the next day when you have not had enough sleep. Suggest these tips to your child:
- Take a nap. Power naps may help revive your teen. But naps that are too long or too close to bedtime defeat the purpose of napping, because your child won’t be able to sleep at night.
- Keep the room dark at night and light in the morning. A cool, quiet, dark room can help make sleep easier. TV, music or a glowing computer screen makes falling asleep harder to do. Letting the sunlight in each morning signals your child that it’s time to wake up.
- Avoid caffeine and chocolate late in the day.
- Don’t drive while sleepy. If you drive while drowsy, you are as impaired as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, illegal in most states.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day – even on weekends. This puts your teen’s body into a more regular cycle.
- Relax with a book or take a warm bath before going to bed. Watching TV, using the computer or talking on the phone should be avoided during the hour before bedtime.