Westchester, Ill. – Teenagers often dread the month of August because of its association with the loss of summer freedom and the return to a class schedule. Teens who are accustomed to staying up all night and sleeping during the day must once again learn to cope with an early wake-up-time for school. A biological shift that occurs in teens may cause them to feel tired later at night, resulting in delayed bedtimes and an inadequate amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences on students, including compromised cognitive, behavioral and emotional functioning.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that adolescents get about nine hours of sleep in order to reach their full potential in school and in their personal lives. Recent studies reveal that inadequate sleep can result in poor eating habits, reduced levels of exercise and unsatisfactory academic performance.
“Getting the proper quantity and quality of sleep is just as important as the proper diet in allowing your child to function their best,” said AASM spokesperson William C. Kohler, MD, of the Florida Sleep Institute. “Sleep problems can lead to difficulty in behavior and academic performance.”
Recent studies also associate lack of sleep with an increased risk of health problems such as depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Emotional and cognitive problems that may arise due to lack of sleep include moodiness or irritability, reduced memory functioning, delayed reaction time and a lack of motivation.
Students who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation may have difficulty learning, thinking, making decisions, using good judgment or solving problems. Adolescents’ immune system and overall health may also be compromised.
AASM spokesperson Ralph Downey III, PhD, of Loma Linda University Medical Center in Calif. said, “With school around the corner, it is important to start to work on your sleep homework so that your school work doesn’t suffer.”
Downey emphasized the importance of scheduling routine bedtimes and wakeup times in order to adjust to the new school schedule.
“Of equal importance as changing the sleep-wake schedule for the new class schedule is to be certain to also obtain sufficient sleep so that the school days are not spent in a mental fog that impairs learning. The right amount of sleep is the amount required to wake up refreshed, and to be able to remain alert during the day without difficulty,” said Downey.
The AASM offers these 10 tips on how to obtain a good night’s sleep once the school year begins:
- Limit “sleeping in” on the weekends, which makes it harder to wake up for school on Monday.
- Do not stay up all hours of the night to “cram” for an exam or do homework.
- Don’t study, read, watch TV or talk on the phone in bed. Only use your bed for sleep.
- Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that acts as a stimulant, prior to bedtime.
- Eat a small snack before bedtime to avoid going to bed hungry.
- Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
- Signal to your body that it’s bedtime by avoiding bright lights in the evening and at night.
- Go to bed early enough to get a full night’s sleep every night.
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is the leader in setting standards and promoting excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research.
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