Lack of sleep has become a chronic problem for kids and teens. Some Pediatricians, in the news this week, are calling for later start times to help teens improve their quantity of sleep.
There is evidence that suggests that too little sleep can lead to such disorders as obesity, suicidal thoughts, depression, bad behaviour, poor performance in school and car accidents from drowsy driving. If parents of teens weren’t paying much attention to when their kids were going to sleep, over the summer, they should start now as they are getting ready to start another school year.
Studies have found that most students in middle and high school don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, which should be between 8½ to 9½ hours. The study also showed that most high school seniors get an average of fewer than seven hours.
The lack of quality sleep is also more evident with students that have to get up before dawn to catch a school bus. No wonder these teens love to sleep in on weekends. It is not a symptom of laziness but instead, it is derived from the fact that they are not getting enough sleep during the week and they are trying to catch up on it during the weekend.
Catching up on sleep is something that the body will naturally make you do, but changing your sleep routine, on weekends, is not the most ideal thing to do. Think about it. If you sleep in until noon on Sunday you may not be tired that night and you will have difficulty falling asleep at your regular hour.
If you sleep late Sunday night then you will be tired on Monday morning when you have to get up to catch the bus. Then the bad sleep cycle starts all over again for yet another week of school. If you don’t have a regular sleep hour, start one – you need 9 hours, do the math.
These influential experts have put forth evidence that suggests that just by delaying start times it can lead to more night-time sleep and improve students’ motivation in class and mood. The policy also says that there could be broader long-term benefits but this requires more research to determine what exactly they would be.
In the meantime, until the experts figure it all out, here is what you and your teen should do to develop better sleep habits and to improve the quality for your sleep.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle is the key to good sleep. You will feel more refreshed and energized.
Set a regular bedtime
Having regular sleep and wake times each day, even on weekends, will help condition your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. If you tend to stay up later on weekends, make sure you still try to wake up at your regular time or at most an hour later. You can always make up for lost sleep with a short nap.
Wake up at the same time
If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without an alarm. If you do, then it could be a sign that you are not getting enough sleep, perhaps you need to start sleeping earlier.
Nap to make up for lost sleep
Most of us have a natural dip in alertness between 2 – 4 pm (depending on when you wake up and start working). A quick power nap can be extremely effective to recharge. You should limit your nap to less than 30 minutes to prevent from entering into a state of deep sleep. If you do you will feel even worse when you wake up.
Fight after-dinner drowsiness
If you’re sleepy after dinner, try some stretching or light chores to keep awake. Falling asleep too early will disrupt your normal sleep cycle. If you have a late after-dinner nap you may wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep.
R.C. (Bob) Dimas
Be the best that you can be by doing whatever is necessary to improve the quality of your sleep!