A majority of teenagers are not getting enough sleep. Teens need a minimum of eight hours of sleep per a night. However, it’s ideal that they get at least nine to ten hours of sleep every night. Parents have to commute to work, and their teens need to get to school early in the morning. Therefore, it seems that most teens are going to bed too late at night. A barrage of extracurricular activities, increasingly tricky and time-consuming homework assignments, and staying up late on smartphones are all contributing factors to your teen potentially missing out on sleep.
Does 9 PM seem too early? Let’s consider the “math”. If they are in bed by 9 PM, let’s assume they are asleep around 9:30 PM. If they sleep the full nine hours, this will give them a waking time of 6:30 AM. Many high school classes start as early as 8 AM. Depending on morning routines and commute time; this could already be cutting it close.
Parents of younger children are typically rigorous in implementing a consistent sleep schedule for their child. With teenagers, however, it becomes more difficult to enforce bedtimes. Additionally, most parents want their teenagers to be responsible for their sleep schedule. Therefore, the best approach for getting your teen to sleep earlier is to discuss the reasons WHY they need more sleep.
1Their brain will function better
Sleep allows the brain to “reset”. To use a computer analogy, restorative sleep allows our brains to “clean the cache” of stimulation and input. During sleep, the brain cycles through different sleep stages. This, in turn, makes it easier to learn new things and function better overall. Restful sleep is essential to thinking and cognitive function. Your teenager’s academics and athletics both stand to benefit from sufficient shut-eye.
2They are less likely to become depressed
Today’s teens are more likely to experience depression or anxiety. While there are a variety of factors that contribute to these statistics, lack of sleep is thought to play a strong role. Sleep disturbances not only exacerbate mental issues, but it may also cause them directly. Depression is a chemical change in the brain that affects mood and outlook. When the brain is deprived of enough sleep, the neurological effects often result in these adverse chemical changes.
3They will be less moody
Teenagers are sometimes prone to quick changes in mood and disposition. They also have a propensity for being a bit dramatic at times. This is due to a variety of changes in the brain, navigating new social environments, and (of course) hormones. If lack of sleep comes into the picture, all of these things get cranked up. Even adults tend to be grumpy and quick to irritation without the proper amount of sleep. Without the rest and recharge of sleep, emotional regulation becomes much more difficult to control.
4They will be less likely to engage in risky behaviors
Risky behaviors are considered things like using alcohol, marijuana or other illicit drugs. Also, intentionally driving too fast or driving while intoxicated are also risky behaviors. Lack of sufficient sleep has been linked to teens being more likely to participate in these risky behaviors. While it’s not understood if sleep deficiency causes risky behavior, or if the risky behavior (like binge drinking) causes sleep deficiency, the link is certain. Unfortunately, once it starts, it can often end up in a feedback loop.
Teenagers may look more like adults than children, but their brains are not finished developing. In particular, the area responsible for impulse control is not fully developed. That means teens are already more likely to be impulsive. Lack of sleep is certainly not going to help your teen make responsible choices.
5They need to be well rested to drive
A rite of passage for most teens, is getting their driver’s license. If they are driving, then they need to make sure they are going to bed early and getting enough rest. Drowsy driving is dangerous for anyone, but especially so for young drivers. It’s a significant contributing factor in many car crashes. As mentioned previously, sleep deprivation impacts reaction time and physical alertness.
A 9 PM bedtime may be difficult to achieve at first. After puberty, the circadian rhythm of the body changes and teens will naturally fall asleep later (around 11 PM). Having a sleep schedule, and sticking to it, will allow their body to adjust and give them more restful hours. Until school start times accommodate for teenagers’ innate sleep patterns, it’s best to get them to bed earlier.
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