guest post by Sarah Johnson of Tuck Sleep
In a busy, over-scheduled world it might be easy to forget that more than your child’s study schedule affects his academic performance. As a necessary biological function, sleep plays a pivotal role in your child’s mood, ability to recall information, and academic success. However, two out of three high school students regularly get less than eight hours of sleep at night.
Sleep deprivation puts kids at risk for far more than poor grades. Kids that don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk a number of physical problems including obesity. During sleep deprivation, the brain releases the hormones that control hunger in different amounts than it would with enough sleep. The result is that kids feel hungrier when sleepy. Lack of sleep also causes cravings for high-fat, sugary snack foods full of empty calories, which leads to unwanted weight gain.
Lack of sleep makes it more difficult for teens to deal with the stress in their lives. Academics, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and social media can all put extra stress on your teen. Inadequate sleep increases feelings of stress and puts teens at higher risk for anxiety and depression.
Sleep deprivation also impacts thinking abilities. Reasoning and decision-making skills decrease with sleep loss. Of course, that affects academic performance, but it also has an influences safety. Teens are already at risk of making poor driving decisions when they’ve gotten enough sleep. Studies have shown that teens who attended schools with later start times had fewer incidences of vehicle accidents. Students who get more sleep are better able to respond to problems on the road.
Along with the other changes in thinking and reasoning ability, memory takes a hit with sleep loss. Short-term memory suffers first, which can make it difficult for kids to recall information on a test or quiz. Not only that, but the ability to stay focused and pay attention goes down without enough rest.
So how do you help your teen get better sleep?
It starts with your child’s bedroom. The room should be devoted to better rest. At night it needs to be quiet, dark, and cool with the temperature somewhere between 60-68 degrees. Check the bed to be sure it’s not lumpy or sagging. A comfortable mattress can combat night waking and help your child avoid stiffness in the morning.
A few other ways you can encourage more sleep include:
Turn Off the Screens: The bright light from laptops, televisions, and smartphones can trigger the brain to stay awake. Encourage your child to shut off her screen an hour before bed. If possible, remove any devices from her bedroom to prevent the temptation once she’s in bed.
Avoid Stimulants: The caffeine found in coffee and energy drinks temporarily blocks sleep-inducing hormones. If avoided for four hours before bed, the effects should have worn off enough to fall asleep on time.
Keep a Consistent Bedtime: A teen with a busy schedule may have a hard time with this one, but it can make all the difference for getting a full nine hours of sleep. The sleep-wake cycle thrives off of consistency. When your child keeps a regular sleep schedule, the brain automatically starts releasing sleep hormones at the same time every day, making it easier to fall asleep.
Regular Exercise: It’s easier for your teen to fall asleep if she’s more tired at night. Not to mention the way exercise improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the body.
Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.