Researchers funded by the Child Development and Behavior Branch of National Institute of Health have analyzed data on sleep patterns, emotional distress, and academic functioning of 2700 adolescents from grades 7 to 12 and found that students who stay up later than 11:15 on school nights perform worse in school and have greater emotional distress than teens who went to bed earlier. What is more meaningful is that longitudinal studies found these problems lingered for 6 to 8 years later into early adulthood. 14-16 year olds who stayed up late had the worst grade point averages at graduation and the highest emotional distress of any group. The findings even studied sleep in summer and found kids who stayed up after 1:30 am on summer vacation reported more emotional distress in adulthood.
It has been well published that American teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep and are feeling very tired during the school day. These new findings show that sleep during adolescence affects academic functioning and emotional health both in the present and in approaching adulthood.
If your teen is having trouble falling asleep try these strategies to get a restful night and reduce the likelihood for psychological stress down the road.
- Create a comfortable sleep setting
- A bed should only be for sleeping. Maximize comfort and rest and minimize any other activity that occurs in the bedroom. If a TV, computer, smartphone or other activities are too tempting for your child at night then they do not belong in the bedroom. Avoid studying, playing video games and watching TV from bed during the day or night.
- If you are in your bed at night but you cannot sleep you should get out of bed and do something boring and only slightly physical. Try matching socks in the laundry or folding towels. Give it about 10 minutes and then get back in bed to try to sleep again.
- Develop healthy nighttime (and morning) routines.
- Avoid caffeine, heavy meals, and strenuous exercise 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- “Having good sleep habits is the first step to resolve sleep problems,” notes BMC therapist and Certified Sleep Counselor, Rita Mueller. A healthy nighttime routine can include shower/bath, dim lighting, getting ready for bed, laying out items for the next day, and some light reading or quiet music. The nighttime routine should end in the bedroom.
- Interestingly morning routines have a major impact on sleep hygiene. Waking up at a consistent time, having daylight come in to the room, waking up to a radio or iPod alarm clock can all help to improve your start to the day. A song on your playlist will be a more pleasant wake up than a loud beep or buzz.
- Get unplugged and charge up with exercise.
- Put down those smartphones, video game controllers and remote controls and do something physical during the day. Exercise can help to make teens sleep more soundly.
“The destructive effect of sleep loss on mental health and well-being is one of the major concerns of sleep counseling,” adds Mueller. If your child is having significant sleep issues outside of what is normal for a teenager it could be a sign of depression, anxiety, or another mental health concern. If you would like your child to be evaluated by a therapist contact Birmingham Maple Clinic at (248) 646-6659 or visit www.birminghammaple.com.
Bedtime and Sleep Duration Affect Academic Functioning and Emotional Outcomes for Teens. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. www.nichd.nih.gov/research/science-advances/Pages/sleep-duration-affect.aspx September 9, 2014.