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21 January 2010

3 Ways to Help Teenagers Get More, Better Sleep

If your teenagers are cranky, distracted, and disorganized, it may well be because they're not getting enough sleep during the week. And sleeping in on weekends doesn't solve the problem.

The latest contribution to the growing pile of evidence showing that teenagers are being seriously shortchanged found that just 10 percent of adolescents are getting the optimal 10 hours of shut-eye a night. (Given that the high school bus rumbles through my neighborhood at 6:45 am, I'm not surprised.)

Who's least likely to get enough sleep? The survey of students across the nation, published in this month's Journal of Adolescent Health, found that those most likely to miss out on sleep are female, black, and/or in the higher grade levels. That last one's not surprising, considering how the homework piles up in junior and senior years of high school.

I asked Danice Eaton, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who conducted the study, how parents can help teens get the most possible sleep, despite the demands of school and work. Her advice:

Teenagers should stick to a consistent bedtime, preferably before 10 p.m.
Keep sleep and wake times as consistent as possible from day to day. Research shows that maintaining a more regular sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep.
Don't sleep in. Strive to wake up no more than two to three hours later on weekends to keep biological clocks on cycle.
Kids have a lot of demands on their time," Eaton said. "But sleep is important. If they are chronically shortchanging their sleep, it does have negative medical and mental health outcomes."
How much sleep do your teenagers get? And are you able to pry them out of bed on weekend mornings?

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