Is Your Teen Sleep Deprived?

More than two-thirds of high school students in the U.S. are failing to get the sufficient sleep on school nights, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that teens should sleep eight to 10 hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health,” explains Virginia Skiba, M.D., a sleep specialist with the Henry Ford Health System. Insufficient sleep can have a negative impact on their grades, athletic performance and mental and physical well-being, including depression and anxiety issues and drug and alcohol use.

It’s a safety issue, as well. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S. In a recent survey, more than half of teens admitted to having driven when feeling too tired and nearly one in 10 teens reported having fallen asleep at the wheel.

A typical high school student is biologically wired to fall asleep around 11 p.m. Many high schools in Michigan start school as early as 7 a.m. – long before a teen’s natural wake time. The AASM advocates a later middle school and high school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Teenagers’ sleep-wake cycles are biologically determined – they are programmed to stay up late at night and sleep later in the morning. Most teens are instinctively night owls. Falling asleep is often a challenge, but there are things teens can do that may help them get a good night’s sleep.

Here are some tips from Dr. Skiba, which apply not only to teens but are great advice for anyone who is struggling with feeling sleep deprived:

  • First and foremost, make sleep a priority. In our busy society, too often making time for sleep is last on the list.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake time that allows at least eight hours of nightly sleep, including on weekends and vacation.
  • Keep the bedroom quiet and dark. Keep the TV, computer, phone and video game system out of the bedroom.
  • Set a technology curfew, turn off all devices one hour before bedtime.
  • Engage in quiet activities before bed, like reading, journaling or yoga, and establish a relaxing bedtime ritual.