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Healthy Kids: Lack of sleep negatively affects teens’ health

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Chances are, if you have a teenager in your house, he or she is not getting enough sleep. Activities, homework and social media are keeping teens up long past their bedtime, and that can impact more than just their mood—it can also affect their health.

Like a lot of her friends, high school sophomore Brielle Wolf says she is so busy with school, sports, other activities and homework that her sleep regularly suffers.

“Since I don’t get a lot of sleep, I stress about tests at school and I just want to get through my day and do well without missing anything,” Brielle says.

“I definitely notice I’ve been hitting the snooze button a few times when I wake up in the morning,” says Liesl Benda, Brielle’s teammate on her school’s volleyball team.

Liesle recognizes that she needs more sleep than what she’s currently getting; she’s reminded often by her mom, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates, who says eight hours of sleep a night is critical for growing teenage brains.

“Sleep is a time when the body does a lot of repair, and our memory consolidates all of the things that we learned that day,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “So, for kids who don’t get enough sleep, learning is impaired, they’re grouchy, and they have difficulty getting up in time for school.”

Sleep deprivation is an epidemic

Lack of sleep increases the likelihood teens will suffer a host of negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of suicide.

In addition, a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that kids who don’t sleep enough are at much higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

What’s keeping teens awake?

Being overscheduled is a key factor of sleep deprivation. Kids who juggle multiple activities and schoolwork often suffer from inadequate sleep during the week. Another hindrance to a good night’s sleep is allowing kids to have their phones in their rooms.

“With Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube—all of that takes up a lot of time. I feel like a lot of us teenagers find ourselves reaching for our phones to absorb time when we’re not doing something else,” Liesl says.

“I’m a really light sleeper, so I take my phone out of my room, or my parents take it from me. Because when I hear the sound, I get up and I get on it,” says Brielle.

Dr. Bradshaw says the blue light of screens revs up the brain.

“So, it’s important for kids to have some chill time after studying and doing homework. Everybody’s brain needs a little bit of time to wind down.”

Preparing for sleep

It’s recommended that kids and adults turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime. You can also help prepare your body for sleep by taking a hot shower, listening to soothing music or drinking something warm—anything that calms your brain and tells it that it’s time to rest.

Our bodies do better with consistency, so you and your teen will benefit from going to sleep and waking up at relatively the same time each day, rather than trying to catch up on lost sleep on the weekends.

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