Teens Need Their Sleep

Experts recommend that children between 6 and 12 years of age need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night and teens need between 8 to 10 hours. However, and not surprisingly, according to a recent study(released in Jamuary 2018), most adolescents are not getting enough sleep. More specifically, a recent study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 73% of high school students are not getting enough sleep, up from 69% in 2009. In addition, 58% of middle school students did not meet the sleep recommendations. Aside from the fact that the developing brain wave patterns during puberty can interfere with sleep, experts feel that media devices and the internet are keeping kids up at night. Another factor that may contribute to this sleep deprivation is attributed to early starts in high schools and middle schools.

Why it is important to get enough sleep and what are the consequences of sleep deprivation? Sleep is important for everyone, especially for growing and developing children. Not only does sleep provide an opportunity for the body to physically rest, it's the time during which the brain consolidates or reinforces what a child has learned or observed during the day. Not surprisingly, sleep deprived children tend not to do well at school. Other symptoms of sleep deprivation in children include the obvious ones such as fatigue, inattentiveness and listlessness. There can also be less obvious symptoms including irritability, impatience, aggressive behavior and behavioral problems. More alarmingly, recent evidence suggests that children and adolescents who do not get the recommended amount of sleep are at increased risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, poor mental health, and injuries.

Catching Up Is Not Useful

Staying up late a few nights in a row and then trying to catch-up on the weekend will not help. In other words, catch-up sleep does not count. So, if on average, one seems to get enough hours of sleep over say a week, but it is done so by catching up to make up for nights of little or less than adequate sleep, it will not work.

Not getting enough sleep can also have effects on society. Tragically, sleep deprivation has been the cause of many accidents including the infamous Exxon Valdez oil cargo ship crash in 1989. Unfortunately, many highway accidents happen because a sleep-deprived driver fell asleep at the wheel. Although the amount tends to decrease with age, still the average adult needs at least 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Children less than 4 years of age need a daytime nap as well. The message clearly is that we all need to get enough sleep and this, regularly.  Click here to see my sleep chart.

Here are some recommendations to help adolescents (and adults) to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule on both weekdays and weekends
  • Sleep in a dark and quiet room
  • Limit the use of electronics before bed and in the bedroom and
  • Avoid caffeine before bed