Pediatric Buzz

Teen sleeping habits: what’s really healthy?

It’s a common assumption that teens tend to oversleep, and that may be true for weekends or summer vacation. However, most surveys conducted on teen sleeping habits suggest that 75 – 90% of teens actually get less than 8 hours of sleep during the school week. Depending on age, people have different sleep requirements for optimal physical and mental health. Pediatricians suggest that teens in 9th through 12th grade need around 9 – 9.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Restricting sleep can lead to more than just daytime sleepiness in science class; it can negatively impact academic performance, overall health, and cause become a safety concern. The AAP states that sleep deprivation in teens can be even be linked to depression and obesity. Obvious concerns are around driving safety, as most teeners are very new behind the wheel, which puts them at even more risk when they are tired.  

High School in itself can be demanding, and a lot of teens are taking on too much in order to prepare for college, like sports and extracurriculars, on top of homework and time spent with friends. Teen bodies are physically changing, lots of hormones are flowing, and daily demands make life extra stressful for high school kids. But, there’s a few things you can encourage that will promote positive sleep patterns.

Self awareness

In order to change behavior, one needs to become self aware of their actions and activities. If parents are noticing a change in sleep patterns that may be impacting mood, school performance or overall health, they should bring it up in a positive and proactive way. Sometimes people just need to become aware, and a simple nudge and a bit of encouragement may do the trick. 

Streamline weekdays 

Every teen has a lot going on during the school week. Figuring out how you can increase efficiencies will save them time which can be devoted back to sleep. An easy example would be doing homework during a free period instead of hanging out with friends, or showering at night and laying out clothes the night before in order to sleep in.  

Consistency

Most teens stay up all night on the weekends and then deprive themselves during the week, which creates a volatile pattern and makes it harder to fall asleep on time during the week. Following a consistent sleep schedule creates a consistency and people tend to get in the groove and sleep schedules normalize.  

No devices in bed

Smartphones, social media, and netflix could be contributing to sleepless nights. When you bring devices into bed, the screens emit blue light which can limit natural melatonin production / levels in the body. In addition to that, reading various content online can stimulate your brain, creating positive and negative thoughts that become hard to turn off, which may cause tossing and turning. Suggest screen time after dinner, and then a more natural unwind prior to climbing into bed. 

There are lots of studies and new information becoming available that will hopefully bring change to the academic environment. In the meantime, parents and pediatricians can help monitor and promote healthy sleep with their teens.

For more up-to-date information on teen sleeping habits, visit the AAP website 🙂

Pediatric Buzz