Pointers for Parents --- How to get your teenís back on a school time sleep pattern.

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Shortened total sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, late bed and rise times, and poor sleep quality are have all been shown to be negatively associated with academic performance for kids from middle school through the college years. One study found teenagers needed 9.2 hours of sleep. This effect was also found in grade school children with only a reduction of one hour of sleep having a significant effect on the childís daytime functioning.


Teen Requirements
It is true that teens need less sleep that grade school children; about 9 hours verses 10 hours in grade school children. With the onset of adolescence, a teenís sleep cycle (circadian rhythms) shifts changes. The circadian rhythms are the bodyís clock or internal indicator of when itís time to sleep and wake up. This change in circadian rhythms typically means the teen goes to sleep later and will wake up later than younger children.
Signs of Lack of Sleep in Teens

You need to be aware of your teenís sleep patterns and the signs of sleep deprivation. The signs of sleep deprivation include:


Naps that last longer than 45 minutes;
Sleeping later (two or more hours) on the weekends;
Difficulty waking up in the morning;
Trouble staying awake during the day; and
Difficulty concentrating.

Your teenís metabolism can also be affected by lack of sleep, causing the teen weight to increase. Lack of sleep may be one reason for the infamous ďfreshman 15 poundsĒ that is common among college freshman. Insufficient sleep can also make driving more dangerous. Teen drivers are one of the highest-risk groups for driving accidents due to drowsiness.

8 Pointers for Parents

Summer is almost over and the kids are nearing going back to school. The question comes how to get the kids back on a healthy sleep routine?


1. Learn about teen sleep patterns

As a parent you need to know the signs of insufficient sleep in teens. These signs can be:
ē in the morning difficulty waking,
ē in the middle of the day falling asleep,
ē late in the day becoming irritable,

ē and on the weekends sleeping for extra long periods.
You should also understand that the consequences of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can increase your teenís chance of a car accidents, affect your teenís health, reduce his/her school performance, cause depression, increase substance abuse, be behind aggressive conduct, and create behavior problems.

2. Talk with your kids

Now that you understand the sleep deprivation, talk with your teens, discuss the amount of sleep they need. Your goal is to help you teen make good choices on how to balance school, work, and activity with healthy sleep needs. Talking with your teens will help him/her make the hard decisions regarding their schedule.

Keeping a log or journal that you both make entries into of your teenís activities, sleep and daily actions will help show your teen the effect of lack of sleep.

3. Plan ahead

Look at your teenís schedule now. Has his/her sleeping habits changed over the summer. If so, it is time now to start moving back to the school schedule. Moving back to school time should be gradually and the transition can take several days to several weeks to complete.

4. Help you teen with his/her schedule

You and your teen need to decide on an age-appropriate schedule that works for both of you. For example, exercise can improve sleep. Although, going to the gym at 10:30 at night if school starts at 8:00 AM will not allow for a full 9 to 10 hours of sleep.

5. Set Boundaries / Schedules for sleep

Review your home environment to make sure it promotes healthy sleep habits. Quiet time in the evenings should be free of loud music and bright lighting. Limit your teenís use of a computer, radio, TV, phone or instant messaging close to bedtime is always a good idea. Having a TV in the teenís room is never a good idea.

Is your teenís room a sleep-friendly room. Is the room cool, quiet and dark? Dimming the lights signals the brain it is time to sleep. In the morning bright light signals the brain it is time to wake up.

6. Watch that caffeine

Consuming caffeine late in the day can disturb sleep even many hours later. Look at what you have around the house that may contain caffeine, that includes coffee, soda, chocolate and some pills.

7. Be a good role model

It may not seem like it, but your teen is still watching what you do. Making good sleep habits high priority for yourself will rub off on your teen.

You can also be an advocate for awareness of good sleep habits in your community. Talk to your local school about including sleep and sleep habits as a subject in classes. Work with your school board to set policies that will support sleep health including later school start times for adolescents.

8. Seek help

If you think your teen may have a sleep disorder, donít be afraid to seek out the help of a professional. Sleepiness can be a sign of other medical conditions.

The counselors at Discovery Counseling are here to help; contact us at contact@discoverycounseling.org or www.discoverycounseling.org


Carskadon, M. A., Wolfson, A., Acebo, C., Tzischinsky, O., Seifer R., (1998) Adolescent Sleep Patterns, Circadian Timing, and Sleepiness at a Transition to Early School Days. Sleep (21, 8) p 371-381

Mercer, P.W., Merritt, S.L., Cowell., J.M., (1998) Differences in reported sleep need among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health (23, 5) p 259-263

Owens, J., Spirito, A., McGuinn, M., Nobile, C., (2000) Sleep Habits and Sleep Disturbance in Elementary School Age Children. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, (21,1) p 27-24.

Sadeh, A., Gruber, R., Raviv A (2003) The Effects of Sleep Restriction and Extension on School-Age Children: What a Difference an Hour Makes. Child Development (74, 2) p 444-455

Wolfson, A.R., Carskadon, M. A., (2003) Understanding adolescents' sleep patterns and school performance: a critical appraisal. Sleep Medical Review (7, 6) p 491-506.

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Occupation: Counselor and Life Coach
Cheryl is a counselor and life coach with Discovery Counseling. Counseling is her second career as she has moved from a executive level corporate management Cheryl has a BA from the University of Minnesota, a MBA from North Texas University, a MS from Liberty and is currently enrolled at NCU in their PhD program. Cheryl brings her life experience to individuals and couples as they deal with issues of daily life.

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