The Benefits of Sleep: It’s Not Just for Babies


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It’s 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. You yell to your kid, who’s already had a full day of school, softball practice, dinner with friends and homework, to turn the light off and go to bed. Half an hour later when you check back she’s still emailing on her computer, wide awake and not sleepy at all.

This is a pretty common scenario among teenagers. When kids hit puberty, their circadian rhythm changes, making them stay awake longer at night, but also causing them to sleep later in the mornings. But for many kids, this natural biological rhythm is out of sync with the school day. They’re up and at’em early to get ready for school in time to catch the bus.

Research shows teenagers need about 9.5 hours of sleep each night, to help their rapidly growing bodies stay healthy and their minds stay alert. But most kids get an average of 7.5 hours of sleep, and are walking around sleep deprived. And sleep deprivation isn’t a good thing. It can cause poor performance in school, increased moodiness, and maybe the most dangerous—drowsy driving.

Is Your Teen Sleep Deprived?
Here are some signs:
* Difficulty waking up in the morning.
* Irritability in the afternoons.
* Falling asleep during the day.
* Oversleeping on the weekends.
* Difficulty remembering or concentrating
* Waking up often and having trouble going back to sleep.

So what’s a parent to do? Don’t panic. There are ways to help your teenager get more sleep without putting you in the position of bad guy. In Guilford and Forsyth County, schools have already done their part to help. Start times for high schools and some middle schools is later than elementary, partly to help the bus routes, but it also give those teenagers a few more minutes in bed.

Studies have shown that teenagers whose schools have later start times don’t go to bed any later, but they do get to sleep later, giving them an average of 5 hours more sleep a week.

You can also help by doing your best to have the family in at a reasonable hour each night. Eating dinner early, so the big meal of the day isn’t close to bedtime, and helping your child find their own bedtime routine can help. Bedtime routines aren’t just for babies. Teenagers can use a calm-down ritual as well, getting a shower at night (which also saves time in the morning) or reading a book for a few minutes before bed.

Here are some other tips to help your teen get the sleep he needs:
* Don’t drink caffeine close to bed time.
* Stick with a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. They can sleep in later, but varying more than two hours off your normal routine will throw you out of whack.
* Take tvs and computers out of your teen’s room to eliminate one of the biggest distractions.
* Create a sleep haven. Make their room dark and cool at night, but allow sunlight to come in during the morning to stay on a natural sleep cycle.

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