Just like we talk about healthy nutrition and exercise, sleep is food for the brain. Many important body functions and brain activity occur during sleep. Sleep is crucial to our well-being. It is as important as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
Tweens and teens require about 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night for optimal functioning. Some can get by with 8 ½ hours. However, some studies find that only 15% of this age group is getting adequate sleep. One factor resulting in not sleeping enough is that they stay up too late on the weekends, thus sleeping in too late also. This affects biological clocks and hurts the quality of sleep. Biological sleep patterns also naturally shift to later sleep times in adolescence. The problem arises when later bed times aren’t followed by later alarm clocks.
The following are consequences of inadequate sleep:
- Limited cognitive or brain function. Sleeping less than 8-9 hours affects the ability to learn, listen, concentrate, remember and solve problems.
- More prone to skin problems including pimples.
- More likely to act aggressively with inappropriate behavior toward friends, teachers, and family.
- Lack of sleep affects mood, and a depressed mood can lead to a lack of sleep.
- Increased likelihood to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods that lead to weight gain.
- Unsafe driving: Drowsiness causes more than 100,000 car crashes each year.
- Lack of sleep contributes to illness.
Solutions to ensure enough, good sleep during adolescence:
- Make sleep a priority. Decide what you need to change and do it!
- Napping can be good if done early enough in the day and not too long to interrupt night sleep. For the most part, sleeping less than 2 hours and before 3 pm is a good place to start.
- Make your room good for sleep. Keep it cool, quiet, and dark at night. When waking in the morning, open the shades, turn on the lights to give you brain a natural wake up call.
- No pills, vitamins, or drinks can replace good sleep. Avoid caffeine close to bedtime.
- When you are able to drive, recognize if you are too sleepy to drive, and call for a ride.
- Find a good bedtime and wake time and stick to it even on the weekends!
- Don’t exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
- Don’t leave homework for the last minute. Give your brain an opportunity to relax before hitting the pillow.
- Avoid screen time two hours before going to bed if you are having trouble falling asleep. The lights from screens have been known to trick your brain into thinking it is daytime.
- Participate in activities that slow your engine down and are calming.
For more information, or to receive a personalized plan to improve your sleep, contact Elise Spronk, OTR/L at EliseS@KineticEdgePT.com or 641-621-0230.