Sleep deprivation in teens

Today’s teenagers lead a very fast-paced lifestyle. Between school, extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, socializing with friends and keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and the like, it’s no wonder they are exhausted in the morning. According to researchers, there may also be physiological reasons your teen is feeling tired: during puberty the typical adolescent’s sleep-wake cycles lengthens to roughly 25 hours from the mere 13 to 14 hours experienced during childhood. This explains why most high-school aged kids are liveliest in the evening, stay up late and prefer to sleep in late the next day.
Dr. Richard Haber, Director of the Pediatric Consultation Centre at The Montreal Children’s Hospital, says that “sleep hygiene” becomes very important for teens once they head back to school. “Parents should try and encourage their kids to develop a real regularity with the time they go to bed and the time they wake up,” he says. “This will help a teen fall asleep naturally at bedtime and be able to wake up and function in the morning.”
While this may be relatively easy to instill during the week, Dr. Haber admits this may be more difficult to sell to your adolescent come Friday and Saturday night, when most teens stay up late and prefer to sleep in the following morning. What this creates is a kind of “sleep debt” that Dr. Haber says needs to be made up during the week.
“Teenagers should be getting somewhere between 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night,” he explains, “but a vast majority of them are not getting it.” This lack of sleep can eventually translate into an inability to focus during class, poorer grades and trouble retaining information, which can be detrimental to an adolescent’s academic success. Not getting enough sleep can also have negative effects on teen health, as it is not uncommon for kids to succumb to more flus and viruses during the school year due to fatigue and trying to balance too many commitments.
The best way to make sure your teens get enough sleep is to encourage what Dr. Haber calls ‘healthy active living’:

The best way to make sure your teens get enough sleep is to encourage what Dr. Haber calls ‘healthy active living’:

  • Encourage your teen to remain active, whether it be through team sports, going to the gym, or walking and cycling whenever possible.
  • Promote healthy food choices and the importance of eating three meals a day, especially breakfast.
  • Firmly discourage the consumption of energy drinks, which contain dangerously high amounts of caffeine and too much sugar.
  • Allow your teen to ease into bedtime by requiring that all cell phones, computers and television be turned off one hour before bedtime. Your teen may complain that this sounds excessive, but will have less trouble waking up to the sound of the alarm clock.
  • Encourage your teen to take a bath or read for a few minutes before bedtime to create a change of pace.
  • Keep track of improvements in grades at school and try to encourage your teen to take notice of the benefits of better sleeping patterns.

Related articles