Is Your Teen Getting Enough Sleep?

“Sleep deficit is hampering high school achievement. Tiredness should not be confused with laziness. All teens should have the right to learn in an optimum environment. Rather than the ‘early to bed…’ adage, the new adage should be, ‘Wake up later and your grades will be greater.’ ”—James Maas, Ph.D., Retired Professor of Psychology, Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, Cornell University

“Because academic clocks are in conflict with teenagers’ body clocks, teenagers are one of the most sleep-deprived [populations] in the country.”—James Maas, Ph.D.

There is accumulating research on teens and sleep.  Teens aren’t getting enough sleep, especially during the school year because of the early start times of High Schools.   It is a myth that teens need less sleep than children; they still need an average of 8 or 9 hours a night to be functioning at their best the next day.  According to research, the average teen in the United States is getting seven and a half hours of sleep a night.  This lack of sleep is thought to be associated with poorer academic performance and depression, among other problems.

Later Start Times

The first experiments about school start time and performance happened in Minnesota in the mid-nineties when some of the local high schools changed their start times to one hour later.  The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota saw positive results almost immediately.  These results included more alertness in class, more students in class, less fighting and students feeling less depressed.

Can’t teens just sleep in on the weekend? 

Teen’s often will “binge sleep” on the weekend.  This can be problematic because it confuses the body and brain to think that 1 or 2 pm is the time to sleep.  This is why Monday mornings can be especially problematic for a teen that has been catching up on sleep on the weekends.

Why don’t teens just go to bed earlier?

This is where the science of teen sleep gets a little more complicated.  Scientists have been studying people’s biological clock, also known as “circadian rhythms”.  These circadian rhythms can create a situation where people are very tired but cannot sleep.  It is thought that up until about 10 years old, children can sleep in the evening with no problem.  However, at about 10, a person’s circadian rhythm jumps forward and 9 or 10 pm becomes a time for alertness.  Even if a teen goes to bed this early they may not be able to fall asleep.

Final Thoughts

Sleep is very rarely even considered as a possible part to the problem for teens that are getting poor grades, are unable to focus during the day or who are depressed.  Perhaps this needs to change.  Teens can be taught better sleep habits, such as having a routine bedtime, turning of all electronics, getting enough daylight and exercise during the day and doing less binge sleeping on the weekends.  Most importantly teens can be taught how important sleep is to their overall health.

Read More:

Do you think teens are sleep deprived? How do you get more sleep time or help your teens get enough sleep? Share your thoughts below!



About agnesrobl

I have worked as a case manager for Youth Services for two and a half years. I facilitate an anger management group, a girl’s empowerment and support group and a life skills group that focuses on drug recovery. I also help individual clients work on personal goals.
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