Adolescents, Sleep and Learning

Written By: Mary M. Alward
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Recently, adolescent's sleep habits have been in the news. Research has shown that adolescents need more sleep now then children and parents are worried. Teenagers especially seem to need more sleep. Are they really tired when you can't budge them out of bed on the weekend, or are they just lazy?

When puberty is winding down, teenagers get a rush of the hormone melatonin. This changes their wake/sleep patterns immensely. Teens who go to bed early find themselves still awake in the wee hours of the morning. It seems that though adults begin to unwind between 7 and 8 pm, teens tend to wind down between 10 and 11 pm and some even later.

Body Changes

Between the ages of 11 and 22 years, changes occur in the body that cause humans to need more sleep. This means adolescents will face a physical challenge if they have to get up early each morning. Researchers believe that they body's biological clock slows during the adolescent years. This is why your child or teen may still be wide-eyed at 3 am, yet very tired at 7 am. Many parents feel that a child who has always been up by 5 am, is being rebellious when they want to sleep in during their adolescent years. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Adolescents between the ages of 11 and 22 years need more sleep than young children.

How Much Sleep?

Adults require 8.25 hours of sleep to function well during the day. Children require 10 hours. Adolescents require at least 9.25 hours of sleep per night, which is almost impossible for them to get. Here's why:

Adolescents tend to have an inability to get to sleep at night. Many times they can't wind down and are still awake in the wee hours of the morning.

Many adolescents work after school and then have homework and social obligations in the evening. As parents, we must adjust the sleep schedule of our adolescent children to fit their needs if we want them to learn and to remain in optimum health. Most adolescents suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and try to sleep in on weekends to allow their bodies to catch up.

It is necessary for adolescents to practice good sleep hygiene, which means going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.

The Affect of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation has a huge impact on adolescents. It affects them by:

Inhibiting creativity.

Impairing memory.

Impairing their ability to learn.

Causing irritability and mood swings.

Causing a lack of self-confidence.

Causing a lack of control over their emotions.

Causing depression.

Causing low self-esteem.

Impairing the immune system.

Impairing judgment.

Causing safety issues.

How Parents Can Help

Parents can help their adolescent children by monitoring their activities. If your adolescent child is involved in too many activities, ask him to choose his favorites and stick to a schedule that allows time for homework, a part time job, socialization with his peers and an adequate amount of sleep.

As a rule, high school kids get only 6.5 hours of sleep per night, which is far less than is necessary. Research shows that adolescents often doze off in morning classes. If your child's high school rings the bell to start classes before 9 am, request that your teenager's schedule be adjusted to suit his specific needs. If adolescents get the proper amount of sleep, their learning ability will be at its peak. This will result in a feeling of pride and achievement, inspire much higher grades and result in fewer discipline problems.

Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene is just as important and good physical hygiene. It is imperative your adolescent get enough sleep in order to function at his peak potential. Good sleep hygiene includes:

9.25 hours of sleep per night.

Sleeping in a dark room.

Sleeping in a quiet room with no computer or TV screen flashing light across the room.

Avoiding bright light in the evening hours.

Opening blinds or curtains as soon as they wake.

No arguments or other disturbing activity in the evening hours.

No alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. These act as a stimulant to the brain and prevent adolescents from falling asleep. They can also disrupt sleep.

Studying should be done in the early evening, not just before going to bed.

Allow adolescents to sleep in for a couple or three hours on the weekend. Sleeping longer than that will cause their body's biological clock to be out of synch.

Sleep is an important part of your adolescent child's life. It incites optimum health, creativity and learning. Help your child get the sleep that he needs in order for him to be the best that he can be everyday of his adolescent life.

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