“Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Skipping sleep can be harmful — even deadly, particularly if you are behind the wheel. You can look bad, you may feel moody, and you perform poorly. Sleepiness can make it hard to get along with your family and friends and hurt your scores on school exams, on the court or on the field. Remember: A brain that is hungry for sleep will get it, even when you don’t expect it. For example, drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel cause more than 100,000 car crashes every year. When you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to have an accident, injury and/or illness.
Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.
Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence -- meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
Teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function best (for some, 8 1/2 hours is enough). Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.
Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week — they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect
their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.
Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea.
Not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can:
Limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework or a date with a special person in your life;
Make you more prone to pimples. Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems;
Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as yelling at your friends or being impatient with your teachers or family members;
Cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods that lead to weight gain;
Heighten the effects of alcohol and possibly increase use of caffeine and nicotine; and contribute to illness, not using equipment safely or driving drowsy.
Make sleep a priority. Review Teen Time in this toolkit and keep the Teen Sleep Diary. Decide what you need to change to get enough sleep to stay healthy, happy, and smart!
Naps can help pick you up and make you work more efficiently, if you plan them right. Naps that are too long or too close to bedtime can interfere with your regular sleep.
Make your room a sleep haven. Keep it cool, quiet and dark. If you need to, get eyeshades or blackout curtains. Let in bright light in the morning to signal your body to wake up.
No pills, vitamins or drinks can replace good sleep. Consuming caffeine close to bedtime can hurt your sleep, so avoid coffee, tea, soda/pop and chocolate late in the day so you can get to sleep at night. Nicotine and alcohol will also interfere with your sleep.
When you are sleep deprived, you are as impaired as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is illegal for drivers in many states. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 crashes each year. Recognize sleep deprivation and call someone else for a ride. Only sleep can save you!
Establish a bed and wake-time and stick to it, coming as close as you can on the weekends. A consistent sleep schedule will help you feel less tired since it allows your body to get in sync with its natural patterns. You will find that it’s easier to fall asleep at bedtime with this type of routine.
Teens and Sleep, Solutions—Continued:
Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of your bedtime. Don’t leave your homework for the last minute. Try to avoid the TV, computer and telephone in the hour before you go to bed. Stick to quiet, calm activities, and you’ll fall asleep much more easily!
If you do the same things every night before you go to sleep, you teach your body the signals that it’s time for bed. Try taking a bath or shower (this will leave you extra time in the morning), or reading a book.
Try keeping a diary or to-do lists. If you jot notes down before you go to sleep, you’ll be less likely to stay awake worrying or stressing.
When you hear your friends talking about their all-nighters, tell them how good you feel after getting enough sleep.
Most teens experience changes in their sleep schedules. Their internal body clocks can cause them to fall asleep and wake up later. You can’t change this, but you can participate in interactive activities and classes to help counteract your sleepiness. Make sure your activities at night are calming to counteract your already heightened alertness.
Where possible some schools have set later bell times to accommodate teens’ natural sleep cycle.
POINTERS FOR PARENTS:
Learn about physical, behavioral and emotional changes that occur in adolescence and how sleep is affected.
Know the signs of insufficient sleep in teens. They include difficulty waking in the morning, irritability late in the day, falling asleep during quiet times in the day and sleeping for extra long periods on the weekends.
Decide on age-appropriate schedules for your family and work to maintain them.
Talk with your teens to make sure they are getting the amount of sleep required. If not, help them to adjust or balance school, work, and activity demands to make sure that an appropriate amount of sleep can be fit into their daily schedule. Work with your teens to help make the hard choices of what activities to cut back on so that they can increase and get the amount of sleep they need.
Encourage your children to keep a sleep diary for two weeks, and to share it with you. This can provide immediate insight into sleep habits that could use improvement, and can be used to measure progress.
Plan ahead if your child’s sleep schedule while on vacation is different from an upcoming school schedule. Move back to “school time” gradually, since this transition can take several days to several weeks to complete.
Seek the opinion of a sleep expert if you think your child may have a sleep disorder. Sleepiness can be a sign of serious but treatable sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, or restless legs syndrome.
Become a good role model by making sleep a high priority for yourself and your family.
Establish a home environment that promotes healthy sleep habits. Quiet time in the evenings should be free of loud music and bright lighting. Limit your child’s use of the computer, radio, TV, phone or instant messaging close to bedtime. These devices in the bedroom can disrupt sleep.
Advocate for positive changes in your community and schools by increasing public awareness about sleep and related disorders. Support sleep-smart policies and request that sleep curricula be included. Encourage your school district to enact policies that will benefit the sleep health of all students, such as later school start times for adolescents.
Understand that the consequences of sleep deprivation include increased chance of fall asleep car crashes, poor health, poor grades, depression, substance abuse, aggressive conduct, and behavior problems.
Create a sleep-friendly room for your teen that is cool, quiet and dark. Lights should be dim close to bedtime to signal the brain when it is time to sleep, and bright light used in the morning to signal the brain when it is time to wake up.
Restrict the use of sleep disturbing products including pills and caffeine. Consuming caffeine late in the day can disturb sleep many hours later.
Organize active family activities. Exercise can improve sleep, but make sure it is not too close to bedtime.
Taken from the National Sleep Foundation website
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