After a long summer break, kids sleep schedule tends to slide. Now that school is right around the corner, I’d like to talk about the importance of regular sleep. However, in general, kids (and parents) should be following these rules throughout the year.
Most adults need about eight hours of sleep each night. Children and teens typically need more than eight hours – I’m talking like 9 or even 10 hours. A 2010 study in The Journal of Adolescent Health showed a minuscule 7.6% get their quota of at least 9 hours of sleep a night. Not a whole lot.
What the study didn’t explore is why kids aren’t sleeping enough. Like how many teens don’t get enough sleep because they’re naturally up all night surfing the web, playing video games or texting friends. Speaking of tech use, i.e., exposure to blue light — which makes cell, TV and computer screens nice and bright—actually stimulates the brain, keeping kids up and alert at bedtime when they should be calming the mind down. Furthermore, today’s teens are caffeinating more often – sodas and espressos – to stay alert while doing homework. If we want to find ways to encourage healthy habits, we need to understand what the obstacles to them are.
Speaking of drugs, if your kids are sleep-deprived, you might as well be drugging them. A 2014 study in the journal Sleep found that college students who are poor sleepers are much more likely to earn worse grades and withdraw from a course than the healthy sleeping students. This isn’t surprising. However, the study also found that sleep problems have about the same impact on GPA as binge drinking and marijuana use! Get that sleep!
For your sleepless teens (or adults), follow these two rules:
1. Go to bed and wake up the same time every day. Those late nights reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game definitely distract us from a good night’s sleep. Sticking to a routine is important too, so don’t let weekends become late-night free-for-alls. Sometimes actually setting your alarm clock to go off at bedtime will pull your child or even you into the bedroom to turn it off, which will remind you it’s time for night-night.
2. Get enough technology-free time before bed to allow your child to unwind. I recommend no technology at least an hour before bed plus keeping TVs, computers, and cell phones out of kids’ bedrooms. You must get that brain-stimulating ambient blue light out of sight.
Sleep deprivation adds up over time, so an hour less per night is like a full night without sleep by the end of the week. Poor sleep leads to less focus, delayed response time, irritability, and even anger problems in school and at home. If your child is waking up tired, then they need to get to bed earlier. Try these two rules consistently and they’ll eventually turn into a great habit.