Conrad Iber, MD, program medical director, Fairview Sleep Centers, points out that on the first day of school, a typical Minnesota teenager arrives for class having had 90 minutes less sleep than that teen had each night all summer. Over the course of the school year, this pattern of poor sleep will average just over an hour less sleep on school days compared to summer vacation.
Teens are particularly vulnerable to this issue. Iber notes that “natural morning waking time becomes delayed for most teenagers, whether they are highly motivated or not and whether they are from Sacramento or Seoul.”
Iber says, “Adjusting to this change in sleep time for the first day of school involves more than ‘getting back in the groove’ for the school year. It can be a dose of trouble.”
What does research show?
Over the past decade, researchers have gathered considerable data linking insufficient sleep in children with consequences such as: poorer school performance, weight gain, a tendency for diabetes, suicidal tendencies and teen car crashes. Iber points out that Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Education Improvement, has been collecting data showing the impact of insufficient sleep on Minneapolis teens for over a decade and using that information to advise local and national policies.
Does increased teen sleep time really help?
Iber cites evidence from the State of Kentucky where adopting a policy of delayed school start times resulted in a reduction of teen car accidents. Teenagers can respond to advice on sleep habits from adults. “Studies at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital showed that when children are coached to increase sleep time, they are not only less sleepy, but show improved thinking and behavior,” says Iber.
“Inadequate sleep makes us less aware of our own deficits,” says Iber.” When we are sleep-deprived, we don’t understand how impaired we are.” Iber offers these sleep facts:
- Good sleep makes the brain and body work better.
- Light, electronic devices (cell phones, iPads, computers and TVs), and homework after normal bedtime are enemies of sleep.
- Normal bedtime in teens is biologically delayed an hour or more compared to younger children.
- The daily sleep need for each teen will differ, but is typically seven-to-nine hours. To determine how much sleep your teen needs, consider how long your teen sleeps during unstructured periods, such as summer vacation.
- Starting at least a week before school, gradually advance waking time and bedtime closer to what it will be on the first day of school
- Expose your teen to bright or outdoor light early in the morning.
- During school, encourage a regular evening routine and bedtime schedule.
- Set a curfew for electronic devices, homework and bright lighting in the bedroom before natural sleep time, such as 10-11 p.m. on weekdays.
- Avoid enrolling your teen in before-school activities or early school starts, especially if they struggle with sleep schedules.
- Engage your teenager in sleep health education by professionals or find your own answers by searching resources such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- See your pediatrician or a sleep specialist if sleepiness or sleep schedules continue to be challenging or if sleepiness interferes with your child’s safety, happiness, or school performance.
Iber says, “Even if you don’t always feel that your teen is listening, as a parent, you are the ultimate counselor and example. And, you are also the provider of transportation and electronic devices. “
For further advice or to schedule an appointment, contact Fairview Sleep Centers at 855-270-5574.
Fairview offers sleep consultation services for adolescents at Fairview Sleep Centers – Minneapolis and Fairview Sleep Centers – Chisago City.