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Teenagers and Sleep: Are we getting enough?

A new school year means new beginnings — it’s a time when we can establish new habits and become a healthier version of ourselves. So, this fall we should set a new goal: to get more sleep.

Sleep is something that the vast majority of teenagers don’t get enough of. In fact, we should be getting anywhere from 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Why? The brain and body mature faster than ever during adolescence, and the vast majority of this growth occurs during sleep. An article from the National Sleep Foundation states that “Sleep benefits the brain and promotes attention, memory, and analytical thought” (Suni). In other words, we all, but especially teens, perform much better in pretty much all aspects of our lives with a healthy night’s sleep. We are better in school, in sports and other activities like dance or theatre. We are also better able to contribute in conversations with and actively listen to our friends and our family.

Not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences, including the serious toll it takes on our mental and emotional health as well as on our decision-making ability. Nearly every system in the body functions off of sleep. So getting enough sleep helps to strengthen our immune system, regulate stress and growth hormones, heal muscle tissue, and more.

The National Sleep Foundation conducted four surveys from 2007-2013 that revealed nearly 69% of high school students got seven or fewer hours of sleep per night (Suni), a percentage that has only increased in recent years. This is particularly harmful to teens because our bodies build sleep drive more slowly, making us more biologically prone to staying up later and sleeping in longer. Sound familiar? What’s worse is that the increase in technology and social media usage has only exacerbated the sleep issue. Most teens use a device before bed, disrupting the release of melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep.

With all of this in mind, what can we do to ensure that we get a sufficient amount of sleep despite early wake-up times for school, busy schedules, and the urge to stay up late on our phones?  Here are some tips:

  • Reserve at least eight hours a night for sleep (I’ll be setting 11 PM-7 AM).
  • Set a fixed bedtime every night. Think of this bedtime as a deadline to finish all of your tasks for the day. If this new bedtime is far earlier than you are used to, gradually work your way closer to your goal by going to bed a little earlier each night – in 15 minute increments until you reach your goal bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and energy drinks at least 5 hours before bed.
  • Avoid screens at least 30 minutes before bed to ensure you’re not messing with the release of sleep hormones.

If you don’t succeed at first, don’t worry! You can gradually work towards adopting better sleep habits and a regular sleep routine. If you get to bed later then planned or have a horrible night sleep, just try and get back on track the next night. Once you establish good habits it should be easier to get the sleep you need so you can be your best self every day.

Resources

Sleep Foundation

NIDDK

 

About the Coach

Chuck Moore.

Student Intern

Chuck Moore is a rising junior at Mamaroneck High School in Mamaroneck, NY.

Meet Chuck