After a long summer of late nights and broken bedtime routines, many teens will have trouble falling asleep for the first week of school. Back-to-school anxiety mixed with natural irregular sleep patterns make an early routine particularly difficult for American teens. But they're not alone.
A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation shows that 60% of children under 18 have complained of being tired during the daytime, proof that back-to-school sleep is also difficult for the younger kids.
Sleep experts say teens require about 9 hours of sleep. A 2006 NSF poll showed that only 15% of teens are sleeping at least 8-1/2 hours. Doctors say this can be especially dangerous, even deadly in some cases. Drowsiness causes more than 100,000 car crashes each year.
A lack of sleep can also limit a teen's ability to learn and concentrate in school, not to mention homework, jobs, family obligations, and friends. Demanding schedules mixed with a scarcity of sleep can contribute to illness or lead to increased use of caffeine or nicotine.
Research suggests that adolescents have a different biological clock, which shifts around age 12. The teen circadian cycle moves forward in the evening, causing teens to have difficulty winding down after a long day. But as the sun rises for the start of school, teens aren't ready to get of out bed. In fact, their biological clock will allow them to sleep until late morning or early afternoon.
So, what can be done to help teens sleep earlier? For starters, avoid large meals and caffeinated beverages before bed. Going to bed hungry, however, can also make sleep more difficult. Eat foods that are scientifically known to contribute to better sleep, like almonds, cherries, or dates.
On weekends, make sure you don't sleep-in more than two hours later than your weekday wake-up time. Keeping your bedtime consistent helps keep your daily routine on schedule. Before going to bed, do something relaxing like reading or listening to calming music.
In this day-and-age, most high school students need an alarm clock to wake them on weekdays. Because many teens are sleep deprived, school work becomes more difficult to get through. Some schools are changing their start time to better accommodate with student sleep schedules. Research shows that enrollment and attendance numbers considerably improves when the start time is moved.
Will other schools follow? Most teens sure hope so!