Is your teen getting enough Zzz's?"He wants to sleep the weekend away," she complains. "And, in the morning on school days, it takes forever for him to get out of bed. But, of course he has no problem staying up all night texting or Skyping with his friends."
Yes, it may me exasperating at times, but the reality is the change in sleep pattern is actually developmental. According to experts, teens require more sleep than the rest of us. On average they need around 9 hours of sleep nightly in comparison to the adult requirement of 7 to 8. Okay, so why is it that they stay up so late then? Well, believe it or not, that too is developmental.
During the teen years, an adolescent's internal clock re-adjusts. While they require more sleep, they are also less likely to feel tired until later. For many teens, research reflects this may not be until 11:00PM or later. Interestingly enough, the later your teens stay up, the less tired they become.
It is as if they reach a point of "no return." As you full know, they then have a difficult time getting up in the morning. This can unfortunately often put you at odds with your teen, especially if you serve as their alarm clock!
Related: Study: Sleepy Kids, Nothing New
The possible consequences your teens face of not getting enough sleep vary and include:
- difficulty concentrating in school
- increased feelings of depression
- increased irritability
- more prone to skin problems such as acne
- more prone to overeat, or to eat foods high in calories and low in nutritional value (i.e. sweets, junk food)
- more prone to illness because the immune system is not at optimum levels.
During the high school years your teens are under increased stress. The academic demands on them are usually greater which translates into more homework and studying. Add in extracurricular commitments such as sports or the arts, clubs and jobs and/or volunteer work, and it is clear to see that their plates are generally pretty full!
High schools around the country have acknowledged the research by pushing back school starts times. Some districts have broken with the tradition of younger grades starting later and ending later. They have flipped school schedules to allow the older grades to start and end later instead.
Related: Mid-Year School Check-Up: Ensuring Your Kid's Success
How can you help to ensure that your own teen is able to meet rigorous daily demands and get enough sleep? Here are some suggestions:
- Lighting has an impact. Encourage your teen to lower the lights as it gets closer to bedtime. Turn off overhead lights and turn on lamps. Opening the shades or curtains in the morning will let in the light and help your teen wake up. If it is still dark when it is time to get out of bed, turn on those overhead lights.
- Avoid altercations by using alarm clocks. No one wants to start their day in an argument. You and your teen are best served by getting him into the return of getting up on his own. Purchase an alarm clock that will do the trick. With all the choices available these days, you are bound to find something that will wake him up. This is good practice for when he goes to college or has to get up for a job.
- Reinforce routine. The key to getting enough sleep and feeling and functioning well is consistency. Encourage your teen to create a schedule that she follows seven days a week (that's right even weekends). Sporadically staying up all hours of the night is not only unhealthy, it is unproductive.
- Make the most of waking hours. One way to address the volume and pressure of increased school work is to focus on studying during optimal hours. Instead of hitting the boob tube or social networking once he gets home encourage him to take a quick break and hit the books. He can relax later once her school work and studying are complete.
- Midday naps can impact the ability to relax. While a quick cat nap (20 minutes or less) can in fact be refreshing, too much rest can result in an inability to fall asleep at night.
- Slow it down before sleep time. Encourage your teen to relax right before she hits the hay. This means turning off the television, music and of course the computer and cell phone about a half hour or to an hour before he goes to bed. Following this advice will make it easier to fall asleep. Who can sleep with the latest gossip on your mind? If your teen has difficulty doing this on her own, you may have to do it for her (i.e. have her hand in her cell phone, lap top or iPod for the evening.)
- Caffeine is counterproductive. While it may be tempting to grab a cup of coffee or drink a cola in order to stay up, your teen will be sorry later when he wants to go to sleep.
With these tips in mind your teen will hopefully have sweet dreams and more importantly get enough sleep to help him function and feel fantastic.
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