On any given school day, most teenagers are awake by 6:30 a.m. and in school by 7:30 a.m. It’s not uncommon to see other students or even yourself drifting to sleep during school. You may also see students bragging about how late they went to sleep the night before. However, lack of sleep is nothing to be proud of. Like smoking a cigarette, not getting enough sleep can have serious consequences on your body, especially if you make it a habit.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teenagers should get 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Studies show that almost 90% of teenagers fall short of that mark, with most getting less than 7 hours a night. This is because factors like early school start times, excess homework or even the body’s circadian rhythms, which shift during puberty to make you sleep later. As a result, the average teenager loses 1-2 hours of sleep per night, which has profound effects on their physical and mental health. These include:
- Negative thoughts. Lack of sleep makes you much more likely to develop moodiness, aggressive habits or depression.
- Concentration difficulties. When you don’t give your developing brain the rest it needs, you may experience memory impairment and slower reflexes, which will lead to worsened performance both academically and athletically.
- Higher risk of disease. Insufficient sleep has been found to increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
- Poor decision-making. When you mix sleep deprivation with a teenager’s already-impulsive behavior, your inhibitions are lowered greatly. This may lead you to consider risky behaviors you normally wouldn’t, such as drunk driving or unprotected sex.
The good news is that summer break is a perfect time for teenagers to establish healthy sleeping habits! Here are some tips for better sleep:
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Keep your room dark and quiet; you want to make your brain associate this routine with sleep. If the time that you want to go to sleep is much earlier than the time you currently go to sleep, make sure to gradually change your bedtime over the course of several weeks to let your body adjust.
- Establish a consistent wake-up time. Even on the weekends, try not to sleep in for more than an hour or two past your normal wake-up time, as this could throw off your body’s internal clock.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine, sugar or demanding exercise in the evening. Stick with calm activities.
- Stay away from electronics at least an hour before you go to bed. Research shows that the blue light that phones, laptops and other electronics emit strongly disrupts the body’s secretion of melatonin, a chemical that helps you fall asleep. If this is too hard for you, at least make it so that your devices emit warmer light after sunset. On an iPhone, enable the “Night Shift” On your laptop, try installing the free app f.lux.
- Take smart naps. An ideal nap takes place in the afternoon and is 30 minutes or less.
With these tips in mind, hopefully you have an idea of how to develop healthy sleeping habits. Better sleep leads to a more productive and happy life. Always remember that sleep, like food and water, is a necessity, not a want!
-by Tyler Lin