Tired? Recharge with Sleep

11/07/2016 01:05 pm ET

Now that the clocks have fallen back an hour, it is important for everyone – and especially those who are chronically sleep-deprived – to focus on establishing a healthy sleep pattern. This is especially critical for sleep-deprived teenagers.

A 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that more than two-thirds of high school students in the U.S. are failing to get sufficient sleep on school nights. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), teens should sleep 8 to 10 hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. When well-rested, teens are more likely to be healthy, energetic and have a positive attitude toward life.

Teenagers who used the end of daylight saving time to get an extra hour of sleep can begin to re-prioritize the importance of sleep in their lives. Although one night of extra sleep is not enough to correct chronic sleep restriction, it can be the start of a new routine that enables teens to get the sleep they need to look, feel and perform their best.

Insufficient sleep in teens can have a negative impact on grades, athletic performance and mental and physical well-being. It also can influence their decision-making, putting personal and public safety at risk. For example, CDC data show that students who reported sleeping seven hours or less on school nights were more likely to report texting while driving, drinking and driving, and riding with a driver who had been drinking. Prior CDC research also found that insufficient sleep among teens was associated with higher odds of cigarette and marijuana use, alcohol consumption, sexual activity and suicidal thoughts.

Furthermore, a recent survey by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance found that more than half of licensed teens (56 percent) admit to having driven when feeling too tired to drive their best, and nearly one in 10 teens report that they have completely fallen asleep at the wheel. For teens this risk of drowsy driving is particularly significant, as motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teenager deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Healthy sleep is a vital fuel that gives a teenager the best chance to learn, perform, interact, and succeed in life. Unfortunately, teenagers often obtain less sleep every year as they progress through high school, to the point of chronic sleep deprivation. Teenagers, and parents, should take advantage of any opportunity to have better, healthier sleep.

Teens who did enjoy an hour of extra sleep after the end of daylight saving time may feel motivated to maintain an earlier nightly bedtime moving forward. I advise parents and caregivers to help their teen by modeling healthy sleep habits in the home and making sleep a household priority.

Here are a few tips for parents of teens:

  • Help your teen maintain a consistent bedtime that allows at least 8 hours of nightly sleep.
  • Keep the TV, computer, phone and video game system out of your teen’s bedroom.
  • Set a technology curfew, requiring your teen to shut off all devices at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Work with your local school board to set a high school start time that allows teens to get the healthy sleep they need.

You can help the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project spread the word that “Sleep Recharges You.” If you are concerned that your teen is sleeping too little or too much, you should consult a board-certified sleep medicine physician or visit www.sleepeducation.org to find an accredited sleep center nearby.

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