How much sleep do I need
Most teens need about 8 1/2 to more than 9 hours of sleep each night. The right amount of sleep is essential for anyone Who wants to do well on a test or play sports without tripping over their feet. Unfortunately, though, many teens don't get enough sleep.
Teens Getting Enough Sleep?
These studies show that during the teen years, the body's circadian (pronounced: sur-kay-dee-un) rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. Unlike kids and adults, whose bodies tell them to go to sleep and wake up earlier, most teens' bodies tell them go to sleep late at night and sleep into the late morning. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to be due to the fact that melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleeping and waking patterns, is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.
These changes in the body's circadian rhythm coincide with a time when we're busier than ever. For most teens, the pressure to do well in school is more intense than when they were kids, and it's harder to get by without studying hard. But teens also have other demands on their time - everything from sports and other extracurricular activities to fitting in a part-time job to save money for college.
Early start times in some schools also play a role in this sleep deficit. Teens who fall asleep after midnight may still have to get up early for school, meaning that they may only squeeze in 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night. An hour or 2 of missed sleep a night may not seem like a big deal, but it can create a noticeable sleep deficit over time.
Why Is Sleep
Slowed responses and concentration from lack of sleep don't just affect school or sports performance, though. The fact that sleep deprivation slows reaction times can be life threatening for teens who drive. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration estimates that 1,500 people are killed every year in crashes caused by drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 who are simply tired. (More than half of the people who cause crashes because they fall asleep at the wheel are under the age of 26.)
Lack of sleep has also been linked to emotional troubles, such as feelings of sadness and depression. Sleep helps keep us physically healthy, too, by slowing our body's systems enough to re-energize us after everyday activities.
How Do I
Know if I'm Getting Enough?
difficulty waking up in the morning
inability to concentrate
falling asleep during classes
feelings of moodiness and even depression
How Can I
Get More Sleep?
Here are some things that may help you to sleep better:
Set a regular bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night signals to your body that it's time to sleep. Waking up at the same time every day can also help establish sleep patterns. So try to stick to your sleep schedule even on weekends. Don't go to sleep more than an hour later or wake up more than 2 to 3 hours later than you do during the week.
Exercise regularly. Try not to exercise right before bed, though, as it can raise your body temperature and wake you up. Sleep experts believe that exercising 5 or 6 hours before bedtime (in late afternoon) may actually help a person sleep.
Avoid stimulants. Don't drink beverages with caffeine, such as soda and coffee, after 4 PM. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so quitting smoking may help you sleep better. And drinking alcohol in the evening can also cause a person to be restless and wake up during the night.
Relax your mind. Avoid violent, scary, or action movies or television shows right before bed - anything that might set your mind and heart racing. Reading books with involved or active plots may also keep you from falling or staying asleep.
Unwind by keeping the lights low. Light signals the brain that it's time to wake up. Staying away from bright lights (including computer screens!), as well as meditating or listening to soothing music, can help your body relax.
Don't nap too much. Naps of more than 30 minutes during the day may keep you from falling asleep later.
Avoid all-nighters. Don't wait until the night before a big test to study. Cutting back on sleep the night before a test may mean you perform worse than you would if you'd studied less but got more sleep.
Create the right sleeping environment. Studies show that people sleep best in a dark room that is slightly on the cool side. Close your blinds or curtains (and make sure they're heavy enough to block out light) and turn down the thermostat in your room (pile on extra blankets or wear PJs if you're cold). Lots of noise can be a sleep turnoff, too.
Wake up with bright light. Bright light in the morning signals to your body that it's time to get going.
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If you're drowsy, it's hard to look and feel your best. So schedule "sleep" as an item on your agenda to help you stay creative and healthy.