Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing. Anyone who wants to do well on a test or play sports without tripping over their feet should realize that the right amount of sleep is critical. Most of us are aware that our bodies require that precious resource, but all too often sleep is the first thing we cut out when our lives are busy. Teens are no exception, but there’s new information out that suggests sleep is even more important than we thought.
New research from Columbia University Medical Center shows that teens whose parents mandate earlier bedtimes got more sleep and had fewer cases of depression and suicidal ideation. The study examined data from 15,659 adolescents. Adolescents with parental-mandated bedtimes at midnight or later were 25 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation compared with adolescents who had parental-mandated bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. The study also found that adolescents whose parents mandated earlier bedtimes went to bed earlier, got more sleep, were more likely to report getting enough sleep, and were less likely to suffer from depression and suicidal ideation.
Signs that a Teen is Not Getting Enough Sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- “Catching up” on sleep on weekends
- Oversleeping in the morning
- Arriving late for school
- Getting bad grades at school
- Getting into trouble at school
- Falling asleep when riding in a car or driving
- Falling asleep at home after school or in the early evening
- Falling asleep in a movie theater or while watching TV
- Lacking motivation and acting sluggish
- Drinking high-caffeine beverages to improve alertness
- Making mistakes
- Being forgetful
- Gaining weight
- Getting sick frequently
- Showing signs of depression or mood swings
Tips for Ensuring Teens Get the Sleep They Need
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that teens get a little more than nine hours of sleep per night. These tips are provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
Talk to your teen. Discuss the importance of sleep with your teen. He or she will be more motivated to go to bed early if your teen understands the benefits of sleep and how it impacts their health.
Set a time. Together with your teen decide on a bed time for school nights. An ideal bed time would allow your teen to get about nine hours of sleep each night. But keep in mind that teens often have trouble falling asleep before 10 p.m.
Encourage consistency. Encourage your teen to go to bed and wake up at reasonable times on weekends. Sleeping into the afternoon on Saturday will make it hard for your teen to return to a school-week schedule on Monday.
Let in morning light. Open the blinds or curtains in the morning to expose your teen to bright sunlight. This helps set his or her body clock for the day. Your teen will be able to fall asleep easier that night.
Limit distractions. Keep the TV and computer out of your teen’s bedroom.
Set a communication curfew. Set a time after which your teen can no longer talk on the phone or send text messages, instant messages or e-mails.
Help your teen plan ahead. Your teen may be a procrastinator. This can cause him or her to stay up much too late to get a lot of schoolwork done at once. Help your teen learn how to prioritize school assignments and to do some work ahead of time.
Limit after-school activities. Your teen can’t do it all. Help him or her set a reasonable limit on after-school activities.
Limit weeknight chores. Let your teen focus on schoolwork during the week. He or she can do household chores on the weekend.
Prepare for the next school day. Help your teen prepare at night for the next day of school. You can make lunch while he or she picks out clothes and gathers school supplies. This will allow a little more time for sleep in the morning.