By Kirk Wilson, President
28% of high school students fall asleep in class at least once every week. Low frades are also closely related to insufficient sleep. According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, an average teenager needs around nine and a half hours of sleep every night. Yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of about seven and a half hours a night. This is much less than the desired quota for healthy teenagers.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping an eye out for the following signs of sleep deprivation:
- Difficulty waking in the morning
- Irritability in the afternoon
- Falling asleep during the day
- Oversleeping on weekends
- Having difficulty remembering or concentrating
- Waking up often and having trouble going back to sleep
Sleep deprivation can cause extreme moodiness, poor performance in school and depression. There is also a high risk of having car accidents because of falling asleep behind the wheel.
How Can Parents Help?
Parents can play a large and important role in helping teenagers get the sleep they need. Some of the important ways to help parents achieve this include:
Exposure to light:
Exposing teenagers to morning sunlight as early as possible is a very helpful to encourage a healthy sleeping cycle. Sunlight helps set the biological clock and doing this can help minimize the effect of the teenager’s sleep clock naturally changing. In the evening, encourage dim lights or sunglasses so that the body gets ready for sleep earlier.
The bottom line is that your teenager’s sleep needs to be a priority for you and them. If everything else is more important than sleep, problems are almost unavoidable. Part time jobs, parties, using the PC and cellphone late at night, extra-curricular activities – these are all good and helpful things but given the dramatic effect of sleep deprivation on schooling, if school comes before these things then sleep should too.
Review your teenager’s sleep patterns and social commitments together and come up with a plan that allows them a MINIMUM of nine hours in bed every night. In addition, have at least an hour before bedtime when use of the PC, watching television and talking on the phone is discouraged. Instead encourage your teen to enjoy relaxing activities like a warm bath, reading for pleasure or listening to (quiet) music. By bedtime your teenager should be relaxed and sleepy!
Temperature of the bedroom:
Teenagers sleep better if their bedroom is cool and dark. Getting to sleep is associated with a body temperature drop and a cool bedroom is conducive to sleep. If your teenager has trouble dropping off to sleep, a warm bath immediately before bed is a good idea. The bath elevates the body temperature and the cool room allows this warmth to be lost, promoting sleep.
Your teenager should be educated on the effect of caffeine on sleep. Sleepy teenagers often use coffee or soda to get them through the day without falling asleep. Caffeine has its uses and if it helps your teenager wake up in the morning a cup of coffee is OK. But what many people don’t realize is that the half-life of caffeine in the body is about five hours. So if you have a cup of coffee, five hours later half of the caffeine is still active in your blood stream. Avoiding caffeinated drinks after 4 pm is a good rule to help you sleep well.
These tips should promote a healthy sleeping cycle and ensure that your teenager is getting enough sleep. However, if your teenager is still having sleep problems even after following these suggestions you should make it a priority to consult a doctor in case there are any underlying sleep disorders.
Recommended Daily Sleep for All Children:
3-6 Years Old: 10 – 12 hours per day
Children at this age typically go to bed and wake up early, just as they did when they were younger. At an age of five, most children are still napping while at the age of seven, most are not. Naps gradually become shorter as well. New sleep problems do not usually develop after three years of age.
7-12 Years Old: 10 – 11 hours per day
At these ages, with various activities as well as school to deal with, bedtimes gradually become later and later, with most 12-years-olds going to bed at about 9 p.m. There is still a wide range of bedtimes, from 7:30 to 10 p.m., as well as total sleep times, from 9 to 12 hours, although the average is only about 9 hours.
12-18 Years Old: 8 – 9 hours per day
Sleep needs remain just as vital to health and well-being for teenagers as when they were younger. It turns out that many teenagers actually need more sleep than in previous years. Now, however, social pressures conspire against getting the proper amount and quality of sleep.
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