Teens and Sleep

I found myself inspired on a recent subway ride to Manhattan. There were several young adults on their way to school, bobbing their heads in unison with the movements of the subway car while appearing deeply asleep. I was reminded of a statistic I read recently, that studies show that approximately 80% of teens are sleep deprived and more than 40% feel sleepy all day. Although it is extremely pervasive and a hallmark of modern youth, this is actually a very grave statistic.

It is absolutely vital for teenagers to stay well rested in order to grow up healthy and succeed. At this point in their progression towards adulthood, these teens have probably been tired for so long that they don’t even know how it feels to be fully awake. Sleep is food for the adolescent brain and if the brain doesn’t have enough nourishment, it simply cannot perform at optimal levels. 

Functions that are critical for growth, performance and general welfare take place during deep sleep stages. There are several ramifications for a lack of sleep as a young adult:

  • Without sleep teens get moody. 
  • A 6 hour-sleeper is more likely to be overweight than an 8-9 hour sleeper. 
  • Sleepiness diminishes reaction time, motor skills and awareness. 
  • Better quality sleep leads to better academic performance. 

How much sleep do teenagers need? Studies suggest that teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep per 24 hours period. Adolescents who sleep at least 9 hours of sleep perform significantly better at school and have better grades, have fewer learning difficulties and are on-time to classes more than their peers that sleep less.

“What we consider the negative aspects of adolescence- rebellion, violence, drug abuse, dropping out- are caused by or exaggerated by sleep deprivation.”

William Dement, MD, founder of the Sleep Research Center at Stanford University

As a parent of a teenager, their sleep should be a top priority, especially during puberty. By improving sleep hygiene and changing poor sleep habits, teenagers may reach their maximum potential, improve their grades, athletic performance, feel happy and healthy. It might take only two to three weeks of good sleep to see the difference. 

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