Is your teenage child getting enough sleep? Recent studies would suggest not...
We’ve feature a several posts on how to get the optimal amount of sleep and more often than not, it turns out that most of us are getting too much sleep, however this isn’t the case for American teens.
A new study has revealed that 69 percent of high school students get less than 7 hours a sleep nightly, and while this might be optimal for a grown adult, a growing teen should sleep for at least 9 hours. The study found that only 8 percent of teens are getting their recommended amount of sleep.
Study author Danice Eaton, a research scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said:
“We found that overall, about two-thirds of high school students are getting insufficient sleep on an average school night,”
Dr. Jonathan Pletcher, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, stressed the importance of teens getting their ‘beauty’ sleep:
“You can take virtually any problem with teens, and a lack of sleep will make it worse,”
“Other research has shown that a lack of sleep can increase depression, negative physical health like headaches, poor school performance, school absenteeism and drowsy driving,” Eaton added.
The findings were published online Jan. 4 in the Journal of Adolescent Health. \
Previous studies have shown that teens who get a full nights rest usually improve their grades, particularly in Maths.
But, Eaton’s study suggests that there’s a long way to go before most teens are getting the right amount of sleep. Data for the study came from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which asked teens how much sleep they get on an average school night.
The researchers found that 68.9 percent of teens reported getting insufficient sleep, which the researchers defined as seven or fewer hours a night. Another 23.5 percent reported getting eight hours a night, but just 7.6 percent got nine or more hours, which is considered the optimal amount for teenagers, according to the study.
Almost three-quarters of the females in the study reported getting insufficient sleep compared to two-thirds of the males.
There was also slight racial differences with 69.2 percent of whites, 71.2 percent of blacks and 65.6 percent of Hispanics reporting insufficient sleep.
Teens also tended to sleep less as they got older, the study found. Just under 58 percent of ninth graders said they got insufficient sleep, but by 12th grade that percentage had risen to more than 78 percent.
Although the study was not designed to find out why teens where staying awake at night, other research suggests that teen employment, social activities, caffeine consumption, sleep disorders and early school start times all play a role in teens’ lack of sufficient sleep.
Another previous study, from the June 2009 issue of Pediatrics, found that the more electronic devices an adolescent had in the bedroom, the less sleep they would tend to get. This same study also found that one-third of teens feel asleep at least twice during the school day.
So, what can parents do to help their teens get enough shut-eye? Eaton says:
“First, recognize that sleep is very important. Kids today have a lot of competing demands for their time, but it’s extremely important that teens get eight or more hours of sleep — optimally nine hours or more,”
Both Eaton and Pletcher said it’s important to establish consistent sleep and wake times, as well as a bedtime routine. Ideally, this should be something established early in childhood, that can be continued through the teenage years – Watching a bedtime TV program with a glass of milk and cookies; taking a hot shower and reading a book; even exercising a couple of hours before going to bed, followed by a gentle stretch before sleep can do trick. Basically, it can be any routine that helps the body wind down.
Eaton recommended that teens go to sleep before 10 p.m. on school nights. But, Pletcher acknowledged that it can be more difficult for teens to go to sleep at that time than it is for younger children due to natural shifts in the body’s internal clock during adolescence. But, he said sleeping until noon on the weekends to make up for lost sleep isn’t the answer.
“Teens can sleep a little later on the weekends, but it’s better for your body to stay in the same routine,” said Pletcher.
One thing Pletcher doesn’t recommend for teens is sleep medicine. “The risks for this age group far outweigh the benefits,” he said.
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