If you have a teenager at home, you likely know all too well about sleepy teens. Teenagers need on average about 9 to 10 hrs of sleep at night, but most of them aren’t getting this amount of rest consistently. Teenagers are growing, not just physically, but their brains are also developing, increasing their need for more sleep.
So, why are they not getting the recommended amount of sleep? Well, most teens brains are engineered to want to stay up late and sleep in. However, most middle schools and high schools start early, with most teens arriving to school each morning by 8 am and some as early as 7 am. This translates into early wake times. Sports, late evening practices, extra – curricular activities and increased amounts of homework often mean late nights for many teens.
Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation in teens can have significant consequence and affect them in a variety of ways. Teens lacking in sleep may often be more moody or irritable. Parents may also notice an increase in more risk – taking behaviors such as fast driving, smoking, and drinking alcohol with chronic sleep deprivation. There has also been an association between lack of sleep and an increase in reported car accidents and teens falling asleep at the wheel. School performance often suffers as well and should be a red flag if parents are noticing a change in their teen’s grades. Attention, memory, and decision making all are affected by not getting enough zzz’s.
So, if this sounds all too familiar with your teen, what can you do to help? Well, there are a number of actions parents can take to help their teens get the rest they need.
1. Sleep schedule: yes, teens can benefit from a sleep schedule. Having a nightly routine and sticking to it. A consistent bedtime and wake time can help.
2. Avoid oversleeping: (insert teen eyeroll). Sleeping in might just be your teen’s favorite weekend pastime. However, sleeping in until noon on Sundays is going to make it difficult to get to bed on time Sunday evening.
3. Early afternoon naps: If your teen is tired after school and he or she has time to nap before their evening practice or activity, a 30 minute nap can help provide some much needed rest.
4. Avoid screens: now, this is a hard one. Avoiding use of TV’s, smart phones and other screens at least 1 hour prior to bedtime is advised.
5. Avoid caffeine: teens should have limited caffeine consumption. Avoiding all caffeine during the afternoon and evening hours can help as well.
If your teen is persistently tired despite implementing some actions to increase their rest, or you notice excessive snoring, contact their primary care physician for further evaluation and recommendations.
Dr. Jennifer Teegarden