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Is Your Teen Sleeping Enough?

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AS MUCH AS your teen sleeps in on the weekends, you may be surprised to learn that more than 87 percent of high school students in the United States get less than the recommended amount of sleep daily, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

This lack of sleep translates into lower grades, poorer sports and academic performance and could even be instrumental in the onset of depression. If you worry that your teen needs more sleep each night than he or she is currently getting, get the facts on sleep insufficiency, its causes and solutions.

How Much Sleep Do Teens Need?

Teens need to sleep between 8 and 10 hours a night, studies say. And considering that the majority of teens surveyed confess to getting less, this number can be worrisome to parents. Too-little sleep can cause increases in moodiness and poor performance, both in the classroom and in sports and extracurricular activities. Even worse, it can cause teens to be careless behind the wheel. Car crashes are the number-one cause of death for young people between the ages of 16 and 20, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and while sleepiness is not listed as a direct contributor, driver-error tops the list. If you have a teen who consistently has difficulty falling asleep at a decent time, learn more about this serious condition and how to prevent and cure it.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Not getting enough sleep, often called sleep insufficiency, can contribute to a number of health issues:

    • Diabetes
    • Depression
    • Hypertension
    • Heart Disease
    • Decrease in Cognitive Abilities

While you sleep, your body takes the opportunity to heal itself. Studies mentioned at Harvard Med found that the body tends to process glucose more slowly in people who are continually sleep deprived. It can also cause blood pressure to rise, suppress your immune system and contribute to mood disorders. It’s important to get enough sleep each night — especially for teens whose bodies need to change and grow at enormous rates.

Helping Your Teen to Sleep

Fortunately, as a parent, you can help your teen get the recommended amount of sleep each night by encouraging simple lifestyle changes:

    • Limit the amount of hours your teen participates in extracurricular activities throughout the week. If they have late practice once or twice a week, make sure the rest of the week calls for an early bedtime.
    • Computer screens, televisions, tablets and smartphones all contribute to America’s love-hate relationship with sleep. Require your kids to log off and power down at least an hour before they need to be fast asleep.
    • Up your teen’s intake of healthy foods such as fish, tart cherries, yogurt and kale. These foods are high in B-vitamins, melatonin or calcium — all ingredients that help the body fall asleep and stay that way.
    • Ensure your teen gets sufficient outdoor time. Exposure to the sun’s rays for just minutes a day helps your body produce vitamin D — a powerful hormone that helps the body regulate many functions — sleep included.
    • Share information with your teen about the negative effects of sleep deprivation. They may respond better to the facts about the physical and psychological effects not getting enough sleep than listening to a parent parent harp about another thing.
    • Make your home more conducive to sleep and set a good example yourself. As the evening winds down, turn down bright lights, lower volumes, finish phone conversations, power down electronics and read something. These are all cues that the day is ending and your teen should be preparing for sleep.

As a parent, the worry never really goes away. But you can at least check the dangers of sleep insufficiency off your list by following the tips and techniques listed here.

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