Our Tweens and Teens Need More Sleep and Here’s Why
If there’s one thing we can be sure of with parenting our tweens and teens, it’s their ongoing exhaustion and their need for more sleep. High schoolers suffer the most, beginning their school day as early as 7:00 am, which can be a grueling literal wake up call to most teens who are in desperate need of more shut-eye.
Our kids wake up groggy and half asleep, then they spend the next 7 hours in classrooms trying to remain focused and alert. Many have after-school activities such as sports practices, games, rehearsals, school clubs, work, and youth groups to attend, in addition to the hours of homework that extends their day well into the late hours of the evening.
And every day we watch our kids push through it all, while they’re exhausted and worn down.
I worry about my kids’ health and their lack of sleep All. The. Time.
I worry they will get run down and eventually get sick. I worry they won’t be able to concentrate on their studies, perform well in their sports, and make wise decisions when they are out with their friends, due to their insufficient sleep.
Every parent understands exhaustion and the profound impact it can have on our mental health as well as our physical endurance. The same goes for our tweens and teens, as they endure these very long days on an empty fuel tank of sleep.
There’s good reasons for our worry. More than 70% of teens aren’t getting enough sleep and there are serious health issues and behavior problems that can come from that.
The CDC says that “Not getting enough sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance.”
Even “The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes insufficient sleep in adolescents as an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students.”
Yes, parents. It’s now a “Public health issue” needing everyone’s attention.
Recently, a new study came out that continues to prove the adverse effects sleep-deprivation has on our kids, citing that “fewer hours of sleep on an average school night is associated with increased odds of all selected unsafe behaviors including risk-taking while driving, such as drunken driving, potentially unsafe sexual activity, aggressive behavior and use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.”
More alarming results conclude that teens were three times more likely to consider, plan, or attempt suicide if they averaged under 6 hours of sleep a night.
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine gives us important information on not only how much sleep our kids need, but they also give us clearly defined consequences associated with their sleep habits:
Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
Sleeping the number of recommended hours on a regular basis is associated with better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.
Regularly sleeping fewer than the number of recommended hours is associated with attention, behavior, and learning problems. Insufficient sleep also increases the risk of accidents, injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression.
This is serious, and we need to do something about it.
It feels like a battle we’ll never win until schools start listening to the experts and make the changes necessary for the health and well-being of our growing kids. Until that happens, we can try to help our kids manage their sleep habits as best we can by making sure they are getting as close to those 8-10 hours as possible during these critical developmental years.
So parents, let’s do what we do best:
Educate our kids, help them cultivate good habits, and set an example for them to emulate.
We need to teach our kids the importance of sleep and educate them on the consequences they will face with little sleep. Sharing these details will help them realize their sleep needs to be a priority.
We can help our kids manage their time more efficiently so they are able to successfully prioritize their day’s studies and activities with appropriate time frames necessary to get to bed at a decent hour.
We can assist them in making wise decisions in setting limits on their ‘down time’ activities, like engaging in social media, playing video games, and watching tv.
And as with much of our parenting, setting a good example is critical. Sadly, we often don’t put sleep as a priority either, so this can be a good motivation for us all to practice the same habits we are trying to teach our kids.
Most importantly, we need to be actively invested in our teen’s lives, monitoring their behavior for any unhealthy issues that may need our attention and intervention.
Let’s stay on them and make sure our kids are getting the sleep they need. Sometimes, that may require changes to their schedule, an excessive number of reminders (ie: nagging), and close supervision during those evening hours when they should be asleep.
It’s a lot of work for us, but after learning what can result from insufficient sleep in our kids, it’s absolutely worth it.