August 29, 2019 — With school back in session, parents and teens alike are probably taking for granted that schoolwork and extracurricular activities mean sleep deprivation is sure to arrive soon if it’s not here already.
Research confirms what every parent knows: middle school and high school students routinely fail to get the sleep they need. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 6 out of 10 middle schoolers and 7 out of 10 high schoolers don’t get enough sleep.
The consequences can be serious. Not getting enough sleep can:
- Make it harder to learn and solve problems
- Cause students to overeat or eat unhealthy foods that lead to weight gain
- Contribute to acne and other skin problems
- Lead to accidents because sleep deprivation can cause as much driving impairment as alcohol
- Increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, injuries, mental health problems, and problems with attention and behavior
None of that has to happen. Parents need to remember that teens’ body clocks really do cause them to fall asleep later and wake up later—no one can change biology. But getting enough sleep is possible, even for busy students.
Here are some tips to help teens get enough good quality sleep.
1. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark at night. Then let in bright sunlight in the morning, which will help you wake up.
2. Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within two or three hours of your bedtime.
3. Avoid caffeine late in the day. That includes chocolate, tea, and sodas.
4. Take a bath or shower before bed—it’s calming and will give you extra time in the morning.
5. As hard as it might be, avoid screens of any kind for an hour before bed. Television, computer, and smartphone screens give off blue light that literally makes it harder to sleep.
6. Take short naps if you need to, but not long ones. A 20-30 minute nap can refresh you and take the edge off of fatigue, but anything longer will usually leave you feeling tired.
7. Stay as close as you can to the same bedtime and wake-time, even on weekends. Your body will fall asleep faster if you do this.
The Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders helps children, teens, and adults get the healthy sleep they need. This article is part of “Make Sleep a Priority,” Dr. Anuj Chandra’s education program to encourage healthy sleep. For other articles, visit SleepForHealth.org. Or follow the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders on Facebook or Twitter (@AdvancedSleep)