Sunday, September 4, 2011

How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get

How much sleep should a teenager get? According to most teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep a night and sometimes more to maintain optimal daytime alertness for their busy schedules. Due to school, homework, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs and social demands very few teenagers actually get that much sleep. A publication in the Journal of School Health reported that 90% of teens get less than the recommended hours of sleep and 10% of those teens surveyed are sleeping less than six hours a night. Accumulating a sleep debt of five to 10 hours by the end of the school week can have serious consequences. A tired teen can find it difficult to learn as well as finding it hard to fight afternoon sleepiness. Lack of sleep can also contribute to moodiness and behavioral problems. By the time the weekend rolls around many teens are not their usual selves and tend to sleep in to make up for their sleep debt. What can parents do to help with their teenagers and sleep?

[caption id="attachment_1551" align="alignright" width="236" caption="How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get? Experts say 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night."][/caption]

Parents can help their teenager get a better night’s sleep by overseeing their hectic schedule, incorporating a 20 minute power nap, adjusting lighting in their home and having them eliminate or limit caffeine in the afternoon. Sometimes biology is the blame for their sleep problem. As teens go through puberty, growth spurts require more sleep. Also melatonin in their brain is released later and later as they age. Melatonin is the chemical produced naturally by the body that makes you feel sleepy also controls their 24-hour internal clock or what is known as circadian rhythms, and in older teens and adults it is released later in the evening than compared to a 13 year old. Because they don’t feel sleepy until later in the evening they tend to stay up past their required bedtime. Early to rise school schedules contribute to them accruing a sleep debt.

See: How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teenagers Need for more information on the importance of sleep on teenagers and school schedules.

When your teenager tries to catch up on their sleep on the weekend by sleeping in it makes it hard for them to adjust to waking up early during the week let alone trying to get them in bed by 10pm on Sunday night. It is sometime better for them to arrange an activity on Saturday and Sunday mornings so they get up and get some morning light. Morning light, best between 6am and 10am, is known to keep your sleep/wake cycle regulated. Since light encourages wakefulness, darkness or low light promotes sleepiness. In the evening dim or turn off some lights in the house to minimize light exposure. This will help your teen produce melatonin faster and by incorporating a sleep routine that may include taking a warm shower or eliminating electronics an hour before bedtime will prepare his mind and body to relax and allow him to wind down enough to fall asleep easy. If they still can’t sleep because their mind is racing from daily activities suggest listening to a sleep hypnotic mp3 or soothing music.

To control sleep deprivation in teenagers it is equally important that your child understand what sleep problems can occur and how sleep benefits their health and well-being.

See: Symptoms of Insomnia in Teenagers for more information

Talk to them about how you can work together so they can get the sleep they need. Some sleeping tips for teenagers, first they can get extra sleep is scheduling time for them to take a short 20 minute power nap before 4pm that will refresh them and give them the energy they need to make it through extracurricular activities and homework. Secondly, is to discourage their caffeine intake in the afternoon and eliminating it all together after dinner. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda, cocoa, chocolate and many other sources, like aspirin. It is even in some prescription medications. Caffeine has a half-life in the body of about 3 hours. That means that if they consume a couple 12 oz cans of Mountain Dew that has 108 mg of caffeine at 3:00 PM, at 6:00 PM about 54 mg and at 9 PM about 27 mg of caffeine will still be in their system. They may be able to fall asleep, but their body probably will miss out on the benefits of deep sleep. That deficit adds up fast. The next day they feel the need for caffeine to them wake up. This cycle continues day after day. Because caffeine builds up in the body, if you teen drinks a lot of soda it will take about a week or two for them to get it totally out of their system.

[caption id="attachment_1552" align="alignright" width="160" caption="How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get? Keep track of teens schedule with a fun calendar"][/caption]

Finally, help your teen trim down their busy schedule by limiting the number of activities they are involved in, but let them decide what needs to be eliminated. Do they need to take dance or music lessons the same time they are involved in school sports? Are they spending too much time socializing during the week and not doing their homework until almost bed time? Are they involved in an extracurricular activity just because their friends are in it and not because they enjoy it? Helping them to organize their schedule is important and they need to learn and adhere by it. Making a Teen Scene 2012 Magnetic Mount Wall Calendar is not only important to keep track of their schedule, it is important for the whole family. Mom and Dad also need to know when and where their children have to be especially if they are the ones driving them. And mom and dad can see if their teen needs to trim the schedule, if they feel their child is not getting the sleep they need. Besides most parents usually just want what seems best for their children. Even when intentions are good, teens can easily become overscheduled. The pressure to participate in a handful of activities all the time and to "keep up" can be physically and emotionally exhausting for parents and teens alike.

The content provided in How Much Sleep Should a Teenager Get is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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