Sleep is Critically Important for Children and Teens

Sleep is Critically Important for Children and Teens

Pre-teen boy asleep in bedSleep is critical to a healthy lifestyle. When we sleep, we consolidate information from the day, rest our body and renew internal resources.

However, most people are not getting enough sleep, including youths. In fact, about 60-70 percent of children under the age of 12 and 85 percent of teenagers are not getting enough sleep.

School performance is the number one factor to be affected when kids and teens don’t get enough sleep. Decreases in the ability to concentrate and focus, as well as in academic performance, may result.

Signs of sleep problems in your child or teen:

  • Iriritability
  • Tired during the day
  • Decrease in academic performance
  • Social isolation

In addition to being unhealthy, not getting enough sleep can be dangerous especially for teens who are driving. Teens who sleep less than eight hours a night are one third more likely to be involved in an automobile accident. They can have difficulty staying in their lanes and recognizing street signs. Lack of sleep reduces attention span, accurate motor control and reaction time.

It may sound impossible to work in another hour of sleep, given our kids’ already jam-packed schedules of sports, schoolwork and extracurriculars. However, we must make a concious effort to place value on our children’s sleep and make time for it. As parents, we can also do our part to help teens and children understand that in order to be ready for all the challenges of life, they need to be getting adequate sleep on a regular basis.

Consider prioritizing “Sleep Hygiene” – this means creating a routine at night to make going to sleep a little easier, or taking out things that make going to sleep harder.

Tips for Helping to Improve Your Child’s “Sleep Hygiene”:

  • Don’t feed kids large meals 30-60 minutes before bed, otherwise the digestion (or indigestion!) can keep them up.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity 30-60 minutes before bed.
  • Stop using screens (TV, tables, phones) 30-60 minutes before bed. The light emitted by these devices interferes with the brain’s ability to produce melatonin and trick us into thinking it’s daytime rather than bedtime.
  • Create a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends.

Gregory V. Mallis, PsyD practices at Pine Rest’s Christian Counseling Center. He attended the University of Indianapolis, where he received his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology.

Gregory enjoys providing therapy for young adults, adults, and couples. His clinical interests include relational issues, couples and marital therapy, depression/anxiety concerns, men’s issues, identity issues, stress management, and the integration of mindfulness practices for anxiety reduction.

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