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Teenagers need sleep

October 25th 2011 17:54

sleep teenagers brain health memory

Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur.

The list of negative consequences of sleep deprivation is lengthy. Insufficient sleep may impair memory and judgment, and inhibit creativity making it difficult for sleep deprived students to learn. Teens struggle to learn to deal with stress and control their emotions — sleep deprivation makes it even more difficult. Irritability, lack of self-confidence and mood swings are often common in a teen, but insufficient sleep makes it worse.

Depression can result from chronic sleep deprivation. Not enough sleep can endanger teenagers’ immune systems and make them more susceptible to serious illnesses. Skipping sleep can be even deadly, particularly if the teenager is behind the wheel.
Sleep patterns
Adolescent sleep patterns have been investigated by researchers in many countries around the world. A regular finding is that the timing of bedtime on school nights gets later across the middle school and high school years (roughly ages 11 through 17).
Adolescents need nine hours and 15 minutes of sleep. They rarely get that much sleep due to early school start time, inability to fall asleep until late at night, work, social life and homework.
Most teens are chronically sleep deprived and try to catch up on their sleep by sleeping in on the weekends.

Sleep regulation
A reduction in sleep from late childhood through adolescence has long been known; however, the current body of evidence supports the fact that the need for sleep does not decline.
Nonetheless, it has long been assumed that this sleep decline was an expected element of growing up.
The loss of sleep through adolescence is not driven by a lower need for sleep. It actually arises from a combination of biologic, psychosocial and socio-cultural influences.
Some sleep tips
Stay away from coffee, tea and tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars and snuff). Also avoid alcohol which can disrupt sleep.
Avoid studying or computer games before bed — they can be arousing.
Avoid arguing just before bedtime.
Avoid trying to sleep with a computer or television flickering in the room.
Avoid light in the evening and get light exposure in the morning to aid awakening.
Sleep in on the weekend, but no more than 2 or 3 hours later than your usual awakening time or it will disrupt your body clock.
Set an appropriate bedtime. Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat.
You need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function best.
Dr. Nelson L. Turcios is a pediatric pulmonologist with offices in Somerville and East Brunswick. He may be reached at or 908-526-5212

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