Although most teenagers would likely disagree, it simply isn’t true that teenagers need less sleep than their parents. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens need at least 9 hours of sleep every night which is slightly more than their parents need. Unfortunately, today’s teens often struggle to get the sleep they need. It may seem that it is computers, cell phones, and video games that are keeping our teens up, but their own biology may also be working against them.
Why Teens Struggle with Sleep
Research indicates that the circadian rhythm of teenagers makes it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 or 12 at night. With early morning school start times, it can be almost impossible for teens to get the sleep they need at night. Add in all those electronic gadgets and the normal stress and pressure of being a teen and it is easy to understand why teens have trouble getting the sleep they need.
How Lack of Sleep May be Hurting Your Teen
The consequences of sleep deprivation are wide ranging and significant, especially during the teen years. A study by the National Sleep Foundation showed that 85% of teens routinely get less than 8.5 hours of sleep on school nights. Even losing 30 minutes of sleep a night can result in sleep deprivation and over just a few days, the sleep debt incurred can impede everything from driving to learning. Teenagers that aren’t getting the sleep they need may experience any or all of the following symptoms:
- Trouble with cognitive tasks and memory
- Difficulty concentrating, listening, and problem solving
- Problems with behavior including anger, impatience, and inappropriate outbursts
- Increases in overeating
- Weight gain and obesity
- Drowsy driving accidents
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Increased likelihood of risky behavior
What Parents Can Do to Help
First and foremost, set a good example. If you aren’t getting the sleep you need at night, you aren’t showing your teen that sleep is a priority. Help everyone in your household get a good night’s sleep by creating an atmosphere that supports healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene.
- Prioritize – Make sleep as important to your family’s overall health as a balanced diet and an active lifestyle
- Be Consistent – Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day helps ensure you get the sleep you need and makes it easier to fall asleep at night
- Create a Supportive Sleep Environment – Check everyone’s sleep environment for a comfortable sleep surface and temperature. Make sure sleep environments are free of excess light, noise, and other distractions.
- Eliminate Electronics – Leave laptops, cell phones, game systems, and all other gadgets in some other room.
Helping your teenager get enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard their health. Sleep is as important to your child’s physical and mental well-being as clean air, good food, and a happy home.
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