Does your teen get enough sleep?
Probably not. Between homework, extracurriculars, jobs, and a slew of technology that tempts kids to stay up, few teens are getting the nine hours of sleep per night that researchers say they need. And while that may seem like a minor problem – after all, few adults get the recommended seven hours per night, and we survive – doctors say getting enough sleep is crucial for teenagers.
Lack of sleep can affect school performance, moods, and behavior. Sleepy teens have more car accidents, are more likely to be obese, and are more likely to be depressed or anxious than kids who get enough sleep. Plus, sleep is physically restorative, so teens that don’t get enough impact their growth, hormones and metabolism.
Unfortunately, while the problem is simple, the solution isn’t. As exasperated parents may have noticed, teens are biologically predisposed to staying up late and sleeping in, so schools that start early work against them. They’re busy all day, and television, the Internet, text-messaging, and cell phones make it hard to wind down at night. “There’s no magic answer,” says Gary Trock, M.D., Director of Pediatric Neurology and Co-Director of Sleep Evaluation Services at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. “They have to prioritize.”
If your teen isn’t getting enough zzz’s, here are some tips to inspire a good night’s rest:
Explain why sleep is important, and set a good example. If you stay up late watching television, your advice will ring hollow.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Tell your kids that bed is for sleeping, not homework or entertainment. Put their desks in another room, take the TV out, and limit computer and television exposure before bed. Teach them to wind down with a hot bath or by reading, instead of turning on the tube or the computer.
Encourage your kids to exercise every day and limit caffeine, especially by late afternoon. They’ll fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Rise and shine at the same time every day. “If you sleep in at weekends, you get less sleep on Monday and Tuesday,” says Dr. Trock. If your teen needs to catch up on sleep, encourage him to take an afternoon nap – but don’t let him sleep long enough or late enough to disrupt that evening’s sleep.
If all else fails, protect your child from the worst effects of sleep-deprivation. Don’t let her drive late at night, when there’s the greatest chance of falling asleep at the wheel. Set a curfew, and limit sleepovers. She may complain, but her body will thank you.