DOES SLEEP AFFECT BEHAVIOUR? YOU BET!
In the past years several studies have shown that a lack of sleep may cause teenagers to be cranky, fall asleep in class, struggle with exams, reduce their performance in sports, increase obesity, exacerbate asthma and actually lead to insomnia.
A new study confirms something paediatricians and parents already suspected: One key to having happy, healthy and less depressed children is to have earlier bedtimes.
The study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University and appears in the journal Sleep. It shows that adolescents and teens with strict bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier were less likely to be depressed and to have suicidal thoughts than classmates whose parents allowed them to stay up until midnight or even later.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DOES A TEENAGER NEED?
Another study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health examined the sleep habits of more than 12,000 high school students and found that a mere 8 percent are getting at least the recommended nine hours of sleep per night.
The Columbia researchers found that bedtimes set by parents were almost as important as the number of hours slept. Kids who were sent to bed at midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to be depressed and 20 percent more likely to have thoughts about suicide compared to teens whose lights had to be off by 10 p.m.
TEENAGERS SHOULD KNOW WHEN TO GO TO BED…RIGHT?
Teens who have a set bedtime are more likely to get enough sleep. The researchers surveyed 15,000 children in grades 7 to 12 and their parents, and found that more than two-thirds of the adolescents said they went to bed when they were supposed to. For 54 percent of kids, that’s 10 p.m. or earlier on school nights. Another 21 percent must go to bed by 11 p.m., and 25 percent go to bed at midnight or later.
WHAT CAN I DO? THEY DON’T LISTEN TO ME…
Many little changes can help you and your teen have a good night sleep. Routine is important. Talk to your children about the need for sleep. To understand sleep a little better check out this website. Bedtime should be agreed on by everyone. Kids from age 12 to age 15 years need 9-9.5 hours sleep, which is roughly one hour MORE than their 7-12 year old siblings may require! Occasional “all-nighters” to finish a project or cram for a test are devastating to the body, the brain and the teenagers memory. These must be avoided. Help your teen to plan ahead so that this is not a regular part of their school life. On weekends and holidays don’t vary bedtimes more than 2-3 hours. Naps should not be for more than 30 minutes.
Exercise (half an hour three times a week), at least 2 hours before bedtime can help teens to get a good night sleep. Restrict caffeine intake in teenagers (that included Cola drinks!) with no soda or coffee after 4pm. Nicotine in cigarettes, chews and other devices is a stimulant and must also be avoided. Smoking is bad for your health in SO many ways.
BEDTIME RULES FOR TEENS
- Relax the mind: Begin to unwind one hour before bedtime. Avoid scary or action packed movies just before bed. Opted for a book, writing in a journal or even a soothing bath in the hour before bedtime. Take some time to prepare for the next day – take out clothes and equipment for after school activities, make lunch and a healthy snack to carry to school. Freeze some water for a cool drink the next afternoon.
- Turn off all electronics (laptop included) 1/2 hour before they head to bed.
- There should be no TV in the bedroom! We at Caribbean Tots to Teens are strong advocates of parents ACTIVELY CONTROLLING exposure to electronic media at every age. If there is a TV in the bedroom it should NOT be on in the background at bedtime.
- Cell phones should be charge in the kitchen, or next to Mom’s bed if that is what it takes.
- ensure your child feels safe at night. Reassure them of your presence and where appropriate be sure they know how to raise an alarm (or press a panic button) if they feel threatened.
Some medications, depression, severe airway obstruction / sleep apnoea (usually due to allergies) and other medical factors can also contribute to a lack of sleep for your teen. Talk to your teenager about what is going on with them and the importance of a good nights sleep. Make a plan for your children that everyone can embrace. If you think more help is needed see your doctor or adolescent specialist.