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How much sleep should your teen get?

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Teen sleep tips

If your teen is logging less than eight to nine hours of sleep nightly, he's not getting enough. Here's how to help him develop healthier sleep habits.

Lazy teen boy sleeping

Teens aren't getting enough sleep, but you may be surprised to learn that a major factor in their sleep habits could be physical changes. Adolescent sleep patterns are different from those of adults and kids for a reason. During the teenage years, the body's circadian rhythm -- its internal clock -- resets, and it tells the teen to fall asleep later. Researchers believe that the brain hormone melatonin is responsible; it's produced later at night in teens than for other age groups. The result? It's more difficult for teens to fall asleep early.

The dangers of sleep deprivation for teens

You can't be your best when you're not getting enough sleep, and this is even more critical for teens who are growing and developing physically and mentally. The pressures kids face to do well in school and meet time demands for sports and other extracurricular activities often means they sacrifice sleep to fit everything else into their busy schedules.

Your teen's sleep deficit slows his responses and concentration, and can affect everything from school and sports performance to safety while driving. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration has estimated that more than 100,000 accidents every year occur because of drowsiness -- and young people are a big percentage of those statistics.

Signs of sleep deficit

Teens may insist that they are getting enough sleep, but they need at least eight to nine hours every night. Your teen may need more sleep if he has trouble waking up in the morning, difficulty concentrating, and/or feelings of depression and moodiness. Sleep helps him be physically healthy by slowing the body's system enough to re-energize, and prevents emotional problems that can be brought on by sleep deprivation.

Help teens get the sleep they need >>

How to help

Mary Glasier, M.D., suggests several strategies to get your teen ready for an easier transition from energetic daily activities to restorative sleep. She believes preparing for a regular bedtime and following a routine allows the body to welcome sleep and adjusts the teen's internal clock. Help your teen reset her body clock to get the sleep she needs with a few changes in her habits:

  • Set a regular bedtime. Going to bed at a consistent time every night signals the body that it's time to sleep. Waking up at the same time also helps establish a better sleep pattern. Don't drink beverages with caffeine, such as sodas and coffee, after 4 p.m.
  • Teens should not use alcohol or nicotine. Aside from the obvious and well-known negative health effects,  both of these interrupt sleep patterns.
  • Encourage your teen to keep lights low in preparation for bedtime (and turn off that bright computer monitor). Lights signal the brain that it's time to wake up, so keeping them on sends the wrong message.
  • Remind your teen to unwind for an hour before bedtime. Create a soothing sleeping environment for the teen. Studies show that a dark, cool room is best.

For health and happiness, insist that your teen get an adequate amount of sleep. The suggested eight to nine hours of sleep nightly will show in her physical, emotional and mental health.

More sleep tips

Understanding the benefits of sleep -- & the risks of not getting enough
Young children getting fewer hours of sleep
Why teens sleep patterns change

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