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Healthy Kids: How to help your teen get more, better quality sleep

Teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep each night for their developing bodies, but many teens get far less. Busy schedules and technology are creating sleep-deprived kids who are at risk for dangerous consequences.

Dr. Pilar Bradshaw, owner of Eugene Pediatric Associates and a mom of two teenagers, says part of the problem is what a lot of teens are using for their wake-up call.

“Kids are using their phone as their alarm clock, so they don’t want to turn it off. Unfortunately, that means they keep hearing the bing, bing, bing of their friends texting them into the middle of the night. It’s a leading cause of sleep loss,” she says.

Sleep deprivation adds up over time and can lead to:

  • Being irritable, stressed and less attentive.
  • Trouble in school.
  • Short-term memory loss.
  • An increased use of stimulants, like caffeine or energy drinks, to feel more awake.
  • An increased risk of having an accident, injury or illness. Drowsy drivers cause more than 100,000 auto crashes every year.

Dr. Bradshaw offers parents and teens these tips:

  • Use an alarm clock that is separate from your phone.
  • Strive for a regular bedtime that provides at least eight hours of sleep.
  • Keep TVs, computers and mobile devices out of bedrooms.
  • Turn off electronic devices two hours before bedtime.

“Most kids report that they find watching TV, listening to music or talking to their friends before bed relaxing. It may be emotionally relaxing to them, but it’s physically stimulating to their brain,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

When children reach their teen years, their sleep patterns naturally change—their bodies want to stay up late and wake up later, which often leads to catching up on sleep during the weekend. But this irregularity can make getting to sleep at a reasonable hour during the week even more difficult.

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