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Teens And Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is common among teenagers, but simple changes can often help teens snooze and not lose.  A study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2006 found that only 20 percent of adolescents report that they get an optimal nine hours of sleep on school nights, and almost half reported they sleep less than eight hours on school nights.  The study also revealed almost 30 percent of high school students reported they fell asleep in school at least once a week in the last two weeks, and approximately 15 percent said they arrived late or missed school because they overslept. 

Insufficient sleep results in difficulty focusing, concentrating, and paying attention which often leads to poor academic performance and productivity.  In addition, sleep deprivation leads to irritability and perhaps a mood disorder.  Many teens complain of headaches, nausea, and dizziness.  Sleep deprivation also disrupts the hormones that regulate appetite and consequently sleep deprivation contributes to obesity. 

How do you know of your teen is sleep deprived?  The following is a list of signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation and sleep problems:

  • Your teen has difficulty waking up in the morning for school
  • Your teen is chronically late for class and tardy
  • Your teen is falling asleep in school
  • Your teen is irritable, anxious, and is easily provoked on days when he/she gets less sleep
  • Your teen takes naps during the week for more than forty-five minutes and “sleeps in” for two hours or longer on weekends than on school nights
  • Your teen is frequently consuming caffeinated beverages and foods
  • Your teen stays up late doing homework every night cutting into sleep time

There are a number of factors that contribute to our sleep hygiene, including our genetic makeup, exposure to light, secretion of the hormone Melatonin, and our own personal behavior.  Nearly two-thirds of teenagers experience a shifting of their internal clock toward much later sleep times.  As a result, changes in our teenager’s bodies contribute to later and later bedtimes.  Consequently, it is a good practice to enforce a consistent “nodding off” time.  It is “lights out,” no more computers, television, or homework.  The following tips also can be used to encourage and promote better sleep habits in your teenager:

  • Encourage your teens to listen to music at night and make a play list that is soothing
  • Limit caffeinated drinks and foods
  • Educate your children about major sleep enemies:  TV, computers, caffeine, and homework
  • Encourage more exercise
  • Most importantly, help your teen set a regular sleep-wake cycle that does not vary by more than two hours on the weekends
  • Tell your teens that optimal amounts of sleep are a form of studying because their brain replays the information learned that day and consolidates it into memories as they sleep
  • If the above personal behavioral adjustments do not work, try light therapy
Finally, discuss with your teen’s physician the possibility of an over-the-counter Melatonin pill
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