Even though we know how important a full night sleep is, especially for growing teens, it is a rarity for them to be getting the sleep they need, according to US News.
They are at an age where other priorities start to compete for sleep like extra-curricular activities, large amounts of homework, preparing for college and after school jobs.
Dr Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital explains that teenagers should get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night but only 33% teens sleeps more than 8 hours a night.
Many health issues can be associated with lack of sleep including depression, obesity and lower success rates in school. While nothing can replace a good night’s sleep there are steps we can take to try to help them stay more alert during the day.
While many school districts across the country are considering or have already changed start times for school not all school have that luxury. So when 8:30 rolls around it isn’t the ideal time for a teen to get up.
So how do we keep them awake in class when they aren’t getting the sleep they need?
- Be an advocate for school starting later
According to Owens, during puberty there is a shift that occurs that effects the sleeping pattern of teenagers and it makes it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00pm.
Taking into account they must rise early to catch the bus they might be lucky to get a good six hours of sleep so school starting later really could help give them more rest.
Owens says that with teacher’s being advocates change is possible. “Certainly that’s not a ?change that’s going to occur overnight, but I think if teachers become engaged in that dialogue with the school superintendent and the principal and their students, that they can do a lot to move this forward in their community.”
- Schedule core classes for later in the day
If at all possible teen schedules should be set up so their core subjects don’t fall within the first two class periods.
“Those kids’ brains are asleep and teachers will tell you, very readily, that if they are teaching a first period class, half the class has their heads down on their desk,” Owens says.
- Make class more engaging
Some educators let US News know what works for them in their classroom to keep kids awake:
- Educate and encourage healthier habits
Now is the time for them to develop healthy habits that will stick with them through life. As teachers and parents we can encourage teens to make healthy choices and inform them of the importance of healthy sleeping habits.
Teach students to avoid things that inhibit sleep like caffeine, video games and computers, and exercise. Caffeine should be cut off in the late afternoon or evening and electronics shouldn’t be used an hour before bed.
It’s up to parents to set the rules at hoe that ensure the habits being encouraged are actually followed.
A few parents let US News know how they shared healthy habits with their teens:
However, letting teens catch up on their sleep on the weekends might not actually be the best solution.
“If you sleep until noon on Sunday, there is no way that you are going to be able to get to bed at a reasonable hour,” Owens says.