How Can Teens Get the Sleep They Need?

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Children's View

Louis Bell Louis Bell, MD, Chief of the Division of General Pediatrics, shares the latest in medical thinking on an important topic: adolescent sleep Insufficient sleep among American adolescents is a major public health problem. Recent studies indicate that nearly 70% of high school students don’t get the eight to 10 hours of sleep a night they need.

Adolescent health expert Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, has devoted his career to helping teenagers build resilience. He is co-director of CHOP’s Center for Parent and Teen Communication, which is supported by donors including Spring Point Partners and the John Templeton Foundation. I asked Ginsburg to weigh in on the importance of sleep and offer tips to help adolescents maintain healthy sleep habits.

Why sleep is important

Many young people sacrifice sleep in the name of fun or in the pursuit of academic success, Ginsburg says. But sleep deprivation has a negative effect on our health, mood, family and social relationships, and ability to succeed. Stressful situations that are easily managed when well rested can push anyone over the deep end when fatigued.

Sleep is necessary to move newly learned knowledge into memory. So, it isn’t surprising that school and job performance decline with lack of sleep. When we teach our teens how to be efficient during the day, tuck their worries away at night, and recharge with restful sleep, we prepare them for a happy, healthy, successful future, says Ginsburg.

Actionable advice for all

Ginsburg recommends the following tips to help adolescents — and everyone in your household — get the right amount of sleep:

  • Set patterns. Stick with set bedtimes and wake times, even on the weekend.
  • Dim the lights. Digital screens give off a blue light that suppresses melatonin, one of the most important hormones involved in sleep. Set cellphones and tablets to automatically switch to night settings starting a couple of hours before bed. The yellow/white light given off during night settings doesn’t interfere with sleepiness.
  • Power down. Dial down activities at least 30 minutes before bed. Avoid exercise, video games and screen time.
  • Park your phone. Keep cellphones out of the bedroom. Designate a common space where cellphones are parked.
  • Decrease stimulants. Use caffeine and other stimulants sparingly. It takes six to eight hours for caffeine to get out of the body.
  • Be a model. Sleep is an investment in our quality of life and should be a lifestyle priority for the whole family.

For more helpful advice on all things related to teens, visit the Center for Parent and Teen Communication’s website at