The life of today’s teenager is busy and in constant flux. They have increasing responsibilities at school and at home, their social lives are expanding, their independence is growing, and they’re making plans for their future. Adolescence is a time of significant maturation—physical, emotional, intellectual. Sleep fuels these important processes. Good, plentiful sleep is essential to teens’ development, growth, and quality of life.
Yet all too often, teens don’t get enough sleep. Their hectic routines, their inexperience managing their time and making healthy choices, and the often sleep-unfriendly schedule of the world around them put teens at high risk for sleep deprivation.
Mary Carskadon at Brown University, who is a pioneer in the area of adolescent sleep, has shown that teenagers need about nine hours a night to maintain full alertness and academic performance. Observations at a U.K. school in Liverpool suggested many were getting just five hours on a school night. Unsurprisingly, teachers reported students dozing in class.
All in all, a tired adolescent is a grumpy, moody, insensitive, angry, and stressed one. Perhaps less obviously, sleep loss is associated with metabolic changes. Research has shown that blood-glucose regulation was greatly impaired in young men who slept only four hours on six consecutive nights, with their insulin levels comparable to the early stages of diabetes. The suggestion is that long-term sleep deprivation might be an important factor in predisposing people to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
Sleep is not a luxury or an indulgence but a fundamental biological need, enhancing creativity, productivity, mood, and the ability to interact with others.
If you are dependent upon an alarm clock or parent to get you out of bed; if you take a long time to wake up; if you feel sleepy and irritable during the day; if your behavior is overly impulsive, it means you are probably not getting enough sleep. Take control. Ensure the bedroom is a place that promotes sleep—dark and not too warm—don’t text, use a computer, or watch TV for at least half an hour before trying to sleep, and avoid bright lights. Try not to nap during the day and seek out natural light in the morning to adjust the body clock and sleep patterns to an earlier time. Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch.