Is your teenager staying up too late, only to have to rise early the next morning to catch the school bus? For growing teenagers, getting a full night’s rest is essential to good health—there is absolutely no substitute for it. Studies have shown that many teens are going without a full night’s sleep. The most prevalent reason is staying up late and having to get up early for school. Some teens may think that their bodies can function well without the recommended 9 hours of sleep. However, getting only 4 to 7 hours of sleep or even less comes with a dangerous price. Why is sleep so important to your teen’s health? In teenagers, lack of sleep can cause:
- Depression and other mood disorders. More and more studies have pointed to sleep deprivation as an important factor in depression and other mood disorders. In fact, the inability to sleep is one of most common symptoms of clinical depression. When your teen’s body and mind cannot go into sleep’s restorative state, they may experience tension, irritability, and vigilance.
- Obesity and diabetes. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause many health complications in teenagers, including weight gain and type 2 diabetes. There are a few different reasons that insomnia leads to obesity, including the fact that lack of sleep raises cortisol levels in the body, causing weight gain. Additionally, people who are fatigued are less likely to get regular exercise and more likely to overeat.
- Accidents. Daytime sleepiness can cause teens to get into accidents while driving, playing sports, or riding bikes or skateboards. Fatigue tends to lead to carelessness or inattention on the road or on the field.
Your teenager’s circadian rhythm, social habits, and natural hormonal shifts are large factors in affecting their quality and quantity of sleep. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Puberty changes a teen’s internal clock, delaying the time he or she starts feeling sleepy and awakens. Most teens need about nine hours of sleep a night—and sometimes more—to maintain optimal daytime alertness. But few teens actually get that much sleep regularly, thanks to factors such as part-time jobs, early-morning classes, homework, extracurricular activities, social demands, and use of computers and other electronic gadgets.”
So how can you and your teen make the changes that allow them to get a full night’s sleep, every night? There is no magic solution, and sleeping aids are not recommended. Instead, look at making the following changes.
First, investigate schools in your area that have later start times—many studies conducted around the country have found that students perform better and display higher morale when school starts at 9 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. It may be in your teen’s best interest to attend a school that cares about the health and well-being of its students by implementing a slightly later daily beginning time.
Of course, a regular schedule is a key factor for teens to get healthful sleep. The Mayo Clinic suggests that, “Tough as it might be, encourage your teen to keep weekday and weekend bedtimes and wake times within two hours of each other. Prioritize extracurricular activities and curb late-night social time as needed. If your teen has a job, limit working hours to no more than 16 to 20 hours a week.”
Other effective changes include a limit on screen time before bed, discouraging long daytime naps, adjusting the lighting in your teen’s room, and curbing your teen’s caffeine consumption. Once your teen starts to feel the positive effects of good sleep, it should get easier for both of you to stick to these changes on a day-to-day basis.