The constant struggle to get enough sleep has been a battle that students and adults alike have been fighting for generations. Now more than ever, students are finding themselves stretching their days and shrinking their nights in order to keep up with the academic, extracurricular, familial and social obligations bestowed upon teens in today’s world. Ironic, in the sense that the hours taken away from sleep to adhere to these responsibilities is actually negatively impacting each of these areas, along with a slew of other facets of their physical and mental well being. One study found that as little as 15% of high school students get 8 hours or more on school nights. Research shows that teenagers should be sleeping at least 8 to 10 hours a night to achieve a healthy level of deep sleep and be fully functional throughout the day. How does your child’s sleep schedule line up with that recommendation?
Sleep deprivation can be cause for serious concern when it comes to the health and success of our students. Teens that don’t get enough sleep find serious dips in their learning, listening, concentration and problem solving abilities, and simple memory functions such as names, dates and numbers fall by the wayside easily. Sleep deprivation can lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior, cause mood swings, and bring about an increase in risky behavior. Driving while sleep deprived is also very dangerous; about 100,000 car crashes a year are caused by tired drivers, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.
Many physical issues can arise as a result of sleep deprivation as well. Sleep is used as the time to regroup and rebuild your cells, and has a hand in healing and repairing parts of your body on a daily basis. Going extended periods of time without sleep can increase one’s risk for heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Risks for obesity go up as your impulse control and metabolism plummet, acne breakouts are far more common, and hormone imbalances through puberty are prevalent when teens spend too little time sleeping.
So what, then, should we do? Students are going to remain busy. Lives of teenagers are going to stay hectic. 24 measly hours in a day are never going to feel like enough.
The biggest solution found by researchers is to simply prioritize sleeping in your life. Be mindful of your sleep schedules and patterns throughout your everyday life and try to adjust your daily choices according to what your body needs. Get your body clock ticking regularly again by eating meals at consistent times, and try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day as well (yes, even on the weekend; “catching up” on sleep can cause your sleep schedule to fall out of balance if you’re not careful. It’s better to get a few more hours throughout the week than to throw your body out of whack every weekend). Try to kick caffeine for a week or two and see how your body reacts when bed time comes around, and always avoid caffeine after around 3 pm. Try replacing your caffeine intake with a daily dose of exercise; studies show that just 30 minutes of exercise daily can boost endorphin levels enough to give you energy throughout the day and settle down for a good night’s rest every evening. Make your bedroom your sleep sanctuary. Don’t eat, watch television, or do homework in bed. Make your bedroom for sleep and sleep alone, and your body will be conditioned to that routine.
The two biggest factors contributing to a healthy sleeping routine are mindfulness and consistency. If you can stay consistently mindful (and mindfully consistent) when it comes to your daily dose of rest, you’re well on your way to a healthier, more energized, more functional and more well rested you. Get sleeping!