Should a Teenager Have a Bedtime?

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Are you constantly having to fight the “battle of the bedtime” with your teen? Should a teenager have a bedtime?

Well, keep fighting the good fight.

Despite your teen’s protests, getting them to bed at a decent hour is one of the best gifts you can give your growing child. And it’s not just about having to practically drag them out of bed in the morning; it’s about preparing them to function well and experience success. Helping teenagers develop a healthy bedtime routine is a great way to learn self-discipline.

How Much Sleep Do Teens Need?

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Teens typically do not get as much sleep as they should. And as they get older, the more sleep they require.

Johns Hopkins pediatrician, Michael Crocetti, MD, MPH, says that teens should be getting nine and a half to ten hours of sleep each night. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) similarly suggest that teenagers aged 13 to 18 need anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

Why Are Most Teens Not Getting Enough Sleep?

With a sample of high school teenagers in the 2015 national and state Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, nearly three-fourths of teenagers were found not to be getting enough sleep.

What’s the reason? Well, there are many, but the most likely reasons are cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Whether chatting through Snapchat or cruising Instagram, teens today are glued to their screens. Other common reasons are nightly homework, busy schedules, part-time jobs, and rapidly changing hormones, which set the body’s internal clock to a later time.

Other factors may be at play as well that can interfere with a good nights’ rest. Perhaps they struggle with health issues that prevent sleep, such as:

Their home life might also be the culprit — perhaps the student is homeless, has to sleep on the couch, sleeps in a noisy neighborhood, or was up all night taking care of a baby sibling.

The flip side might also be to blame; a lack of sleep for teens could be caused by how early school starts. The older students typically start school earlier in the morning than the younger students, despite the teens naturally going to bed later. Furthermore, teens who take the bus to school may have to wake up hours earlier to catch their bus.

Even the CDC recommends that schools should start later–8:30 am at the earliest–to allow teens the chance to get the sleep they very much need.

Those schools with later start times even see an increase in enrollment and attendance. Yet many high schools start well before 8:00 am.

It’s not surprising then, that it’s so hard to get a teenager out of bed in the morning.

What Happens If a Teen Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep?

When a teen doesn’t get enough sleep, whether for one night or over a period, they aren’t able to undergo the vital activities they need to, to function well.

A lack of sleep can lead to several health problems ranging from minor to severe, and even deadly.

Because sleep is so necessary, the brain will find a way to get some shuteye, even at inopportune times. This could lead to dangerous or deadly situations of falling asleep behind the wheel of an automobile.

With so many teens and adults sleep deprived, it’s no wonder that there are more than 100,000 car accidents every year due to falling asleep at the wheel.

Besides the dangers of a lack of sleep, there are a host of cognitive, emotional, and physical effects to not getting enough quality shut eye:

  • negatively affects mood, making your teen moodier and more irritable, impatient, or curt.
  • limits cognitive function, or the brain’s ability to learn, listen, and concentrate. Memory and recall may also be affected.
  • contributes to acne, and since acne heals while you sleep, not getting enough of it will make breakouts last longer.
  • causes cravings for unhealthy foods and may lead to binge eating and weight gain.
  • makes it more likely to contract an illness as your body’s defenses have not had time to rest.
  • creates situations where there may be unsafe use of equipment or motor vehicles, leading to increased injuries and accidents.
  • causes poor judgment and lowers impulse control, making teens more likely to make unhealthy or risky decisions.
  • increases feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and depression.
  • increases the risk of developing some cancers, diabetes type-2, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.

What Can You Do as Parents?

As a parent, you certainly play a role in helping your teenager get adequate sleep each night.

The Sleep Foundation, the CDC, Johns Hopkins, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and other health professionals all recommend similar strategies to help your teen avoid sleep deprivation:

1. Set a Bedtime

Establish a set bedtime for your teen.  Teens who have an established bedtime are more likely to get adequate sleep when compared to a teen with no set bedtime.

2. Limit Caffeine

Limit the young person’s intake or the availability of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda, and tea. And help them develop the habit of avoiding it later in the day.

3. Create a Bedtime Routine

Create a bedtime routine and stick to it. Your body will naturally recognize this routine as a signal to start preparing for sleep.

4. Turn Off the Television

Turn off the television. Sleeping with the TV on has been shown to lessen sleep quality. It helps some people fall asleep, only to wake them a short time later.

5. Limit Screen Time

Limit screen time and light exposure. Don’t allow teens to have their cell phones in their bedrooms (they will be on them).

6. Prepare the Bedroom for Sleep

Create a bedroom for sleeping that is cool, quiet, and dark. They may even want to use a white noise machine or ceiling fan to make a gentle humming noise.

7. Provide Natural Sleep Aids

Your teenager may benefit from natural sleep aids such as a sleep mask or weighted blanket. Our son uses the Degrees of Comfort weighted blanket for better sleep.

8. Be a Sleep Model

Most of all, parents should model healthy sleeping habits, hopefully resulting in a well-rested and healthy family.

Sleep is as vital to life as oxygen, food, and water. Not getting enough of it is detrimental to a teen’s health, well-being, and the well-being of others around them.

So while your teen may want to stay up late on social media or playing video games, make sure they get to bed at a decent hour.

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