Sleep is important to a child’s health, growth, academic performance, and well-being. Most middle and high schoolers don’t get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. A 2014 article from the Academy of Pediatric Medicine described the lack of sleep in teenagers as a public health epidemic. To help combat the lack of sleep in teenagers some school districts throughout the country are considering starting school later.
Sleep deprivation can affect a child’s school performance. A sleep deprived child may get frustrated, cranky, and aggravated more easily. Learning is harder at school when a child is sleep deprived, since paying attention, memory, and problem solving becomes more difficult when children are overtired. In adolescents, sleep depravation can result in poor grades, missed school, excessive tardiness, drowsy driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and even suicide attempts.
Many factors account for the lack of teenagers getting the recommended eight to10 hours of sleep each night:
- Adolescents have difficulty falling asleep: As children get older, their circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock, shifts to a later time, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m.
- Teens try to make up for lost sleep on the weekends: Sleeping later on the weekends can mess up their circadian rhythm even more.
- Lit screens on electronics can interfere with the circadian rhythms: Light from electronics trick the brain into thinking it is daytime instead of nighttime.
- Teenagers often feel overwhelmed: Teenagers overwhelmed with homework, school sports and jobs, and worrying about college acceptance, may make them stressed out at bedtime.
- Excessive cell phone use: Research indicates that 92 percent of United States adolescents have smartphones and 24 percent of them report being online constantly. Many teens bring cell phones into their bedrooms and use them when they are trying to go to sleep. Some teenagers wake up throughout the night to answer texts, calls or emails.
It is much easier as a parent to get a young child to bed as compared to a teenager, but research shows that teens (deep down inside) prefer that parents set their bedtime.
Parents can help teens get to bed earlier and sleep more soundly by encouraging them to limit their caffeine intake prior to bedtime since caffeine acts as a stimulant interfering with getting to sleep or falling asleep.
Teenagers will want their cell phones with them in the bedroom, but parents can discourage use of cellphones right before bed and to silence them at night so they can get a more restful night sleep.
The teen’s bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet and this environment should be the same all night long. It is also recommended that adolescent find something relaxing to do before bedtime such as reading an enjoyable book or taking a relaxing shower or bath.
If your teen is having persistent difficulty with sleep, talk to your child’s primary care provider.