Sleep Deprivation Is A National Problem That’s Affecting Our Teens
Sleep deprivation is an important health and safety challenge affecting our nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic sleep loss is so common it has become a “public health problem.” It’s a problem that is especially rampant among our teens.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that teens sleep eight to 10 hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. When well-rested, teens are more likely to be healthy, energetic and have a positive attitude on life. They are more likely to excel at school and sports.
However, according to a 2016 study published by the CDC, more than two-thirds of high school students in the U.S. are failing to get enough sleep on school nights. Results show that 69 percent of surveyed students in grades 9 to 12 reported sleeping less than eight hours on an average school night. Insufficient sleep in teens can impact everything from school grades to driving safety, and can even be deadly for driving teens.
The reasons why many teens are sleep deprived are complex. Their busy schedules can include long school days, extracurricular activities and sports, after-school jobs and homework. Early school start times also restrict sleep opportunity for teens. Many teens tend to be natural night owls who prefer a later bedtime.
Many teens also lack good sleep hygiene, or healthy bedtime habits that promote good sleep. Some of the most common, sleep-disrupting mistakes made by teens include consuming large amounts of caffeine after noon, using electronic devices during the last hour before falling asleep, taking long afternoon naps and binge sleeping on weekends. But sleep deprivation is preventable.
To help teens prioritize the importance of sleep, the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project has launched the Sleep Recharges You campaign. Parents should look for these signs that your teen needs more sleep:
- Snoozing multiple times after the alarm clock rings each morning
- Relying on caffeine to stay alert and productive during the day
- Regularly playing “catch up” on sleep by sleeping in on weekend days
- Feeling easily distracted and having trouble focusing on a task
- Being forgetful or making mistakes
- Feeling irritable or depressed
- Struggling to stay awake while driving
- Falling asleep while reading, watching TV or sitting in a class
It is important for parents to model healthy sleep habits in the home. Here are a few tips to help start a healthy sleep routine and create a positive sleep environment for your teen:
- Identify a consistent bedtime and wake up time that allows your teen to get eight to 10 hours of sleep.
- Set a bedtime alarm to remind your teen when it is time to get ready for bed.
- Help your teen choose routine, relaxing rituals each night before bed, such as taking a warm bath every evening.
- Keep electronic devices — including TVs, computers, smart phones and video game systems — out of your teen’s bedroom.
- Set a technology curfew at least 60 minutes before bedtime and require your teen to turn off the phone, computer, tablet and TV.
- Charge you teen’s cell phone in the hallway or in another room during the night.
- Limit how much caffeine your teen consumes and ban caffeine after lunch.
Parents who are concerned that their teen is sleeping too little or too much should consult a board-certified sleep medicine physician. Visit www.sleepeducation.org to find an accredited sleep center nearby.