Is Your Teen Burning the Candle at Both Ends?
By Sandy Schroeder
Questions about teenage sleep patterns come up all of the time. Parents may watch in complete frustration as their teens struggle through a loaded schedule with very little sleep. Expert say that pattern is dangerous.
One history teacher said at least 25 percent of his students get by on five hours of sleep per night, according to the Washington Post. Most of the teens the teacher sees are carrying heavy class loads, working part-time jobs, and playing sports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 70 percent of 50,000 high school students surveyed got less than seven hours sleep during the week. Researchers say this lack of sleep impacts physical and mental health. Sleep-deprived teens do not do as well in school, and poor judgment often leads to accidents, injuries and drug or alcohol use.
What Parents Can Do
First, parents need to know that a teen’s biological clock changes at puberty and keeps them up to 11 p.m. at night. Meanwhile most middle and high schools start classes at 7 a.m. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests schools start at 8 or 8:30 a.m. to allow teens to get adequate sleep.
Ways to Help
As parents cope with the current situation, schools and national children’s groups suggest these steps
Kick screens out – One assistant principal said smartphones keep teens up all night. They put the phone under their pillow and the vibrations wake them up.
Keep weekend bedtimes the same – Letting teens stay up on weekends and sleep late on Saturday or Sunday has been compared to putting them into a different sleep zone. Come Monday they have to flip back to the weekday time zone and struggle through. That’s a lot of jet lag to cope with week after week.
Cut the caffeine by noon – Caffeine can stay in the system for up to 12 hours, keeping teens awake every night. Using coffee and energy drinks to keep going sets the teen up for problems.
Brief naps help – Short 10- to 20-minute naps in the afternoon can help to balance sleeplessness.
Simplify mornings – Encourage teens to organize everything at night so they can sleep as long as possible in the morning and still get to school on time.
See a doctor – If your teen continues to struggle with sleeplessness, see your family doctor and a counselor if needed, to work through the problems.
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