Having raised 3 teenagers as well as thousands of teens in my practice, I know that sleep is one of the most important needs for teens. Having said that, they are the least likely group to believe/convince that lack of sleep causes a plethora of physical as well as psychological problems.
According to the study, which was just published online in Preventive Medicine, insufficient sleep is associated with numerous "risky" behaviors including drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, fighting, lack of physical activity and being sexually active.
The data on sleep was accumulated from the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey where students were asked, "On an average school night, how many hours of sleep do you get?" Insufficient sleep was defined as less than 8 hours, while sufficient sleep was 8 or more hours per night. On an average school night, almost 70% of responders reported insufficient sleep. In my practice I ask every child/adolescent about their sleep habits and routinely find teens are averaging between 5 - 7 hours of sleep per night. They also come in everyday with a chief complaint of FATIGUE!
I used to tell my own sons throughout their high school years that they needed to be in bed between 10:30 - 11 pm. They could not understand why I was up "prowling around their rooms" in the dark of night (when I was longing to go to bed!) suggesting, and then demanding, that they go to bed. "No one else has a bedtime in high school" was the common complaint. But I also told them that I made my living out of telling teens (and their parents) that the reason their child "felt badly" was not mono, or a dreaded disease, but lack of sleep. A good history and review of systems was far better than any blood test.
Now the latest study just confirms what we intuitively have already known, adequate sleep leads to other better habits as well. Those teens who did not have adequate sleep also drank more soft drinks (did not include diet), used computers for 3 or more hours every day, admitted to current alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use, were sexually active, and also expressed more feelings of being sad or hopeless or even of having suicidal thoughts.
If we could improve these statistics and reduce so many teenage "health risk behaviors" by just having parents enforce bedtimes, it sure seems like an easy sell. So set a time, turn off the electronics and "put your teen to bed". I know they have homework and tests and papers to write.......but they also must be healthy, and rested to make good choices in both school and outside the home.
Oh, the study also found that watching 3 or more hours of television /day was not related to insufficient sleep. You might leave that part out!
That's your daily dose for today. I'm Dr. Sue Hubbard from The Kid's Doctor.