The summertime sleep habits of most teens today would be enough to make Ben Franklin blow a proverbial fuse. A 3 a.m. to Noon sleep schedule isn’t likely to meet his standard of “early to bed, early to rise.” But it can be the norm for night-owl teens when they are free from a school schedule.
As teens go back to school for the fall, Ben will get his revenge each morning when the alarm clock sounds. These early morning wake-up calls will leave most teens short on sleep during the school week.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teens should sleep 8 to 10 hours each night to recharge. But CDC data show that more than two-thirds of teens fail to get 8 hours of sleep on school nights.
This chronic sleep loss can hinder teens’ academic performance. It also increases the risk of health and safety problems among teens. These health risks include depression, suicidal thoughts and drowsy driving.
What can parents do? Here are five tips from the AASM to help parents promote healthy sleep in teens:
Discuss school start times. Work together with your local school board to set a high school start time that allows teens to get the healthy sleep they need. Teens tend to have a natural, biological tendency to be night owls. Early school start times make it hard for them to get 8 to 10 hours of nightly sleep.
Promote a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Your body functions best when you keep a regular routine. Encourage your teen to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning.
Let in morning light. Open the blinds or curtains in the morning to expose your teen to bright sunlight. This light is a timing cue for the body that helps promote alertness.
Ban devices from the bedroom. Ensure that your teen’s bedroom is a quiet, relaxing sleep environment. Keep electronic devices such as the TV, video game system, computer and tablet out of your teen’s bedroom.
Set a communication curfew. Set a reasonable time after which your teen can no longer send text messages, check e-mail and social media, or talk on the phone. Ensure that your teen silences all communication notifications during sleep.
Teens who regularly struggle to fall asleep at night or stay awake during the day may have a sleep illness. Parents can get help for a teen’s sleep problems from a board-certified sleep medicine physician at an AASM-accredited sleep center.
Updated Oct. 25, 2016