Healthy Living: Teens & Sleep 

By- Dr. Anthony NgOne of the most talked about topics in teen health has been the issue of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, their recommended guideline for sleep for teens is nine hours and fifteen minutes per night in order to function at their highest level. Other past studies have suggested children between ages seven to 12 needed 11 hours of sleep. Insufficient sleep for teens has been linked to poor academic performance, as well as health changes and mood issues as well as other task performances such as driving. However, according to a recent study that came out of Brigham Young University, their results seem to highlight that perhaps teens do not need as much sleep as previously thought to see the same level of academic performance on standardized testing. The researchers studied 1,724 primary and secondary school students across the U.S., assessing how much sleep they got and how they scored in standardized tests. In this latest study, the authors noted that in terms of testing best in exams, for age 10, nine to 9.5 hours of sleep is needed: for age 12, eight to 8.5 hours of sleeps is needed and for age 16, seven hours of sleep is needed. What is important about sleep is not how much but more the quality of sleep. Teens may perform better academically if they cut down on lie-ins. Pupils also do better in exams if they have a regular sleeping pattern. While this recent finding highlights that the amount of sleep that teens need to maintain good academic performance is slightly lower than previously thought, additional studies are likely needed to fully assess quality of sleep, rather than duration, how sleep actually affect performance and what variables may affect teen sleep. The amount of sleep needed may be a range instead of a hard number. Also, teens’ lives are busy between school attendance, home work, extracurricular activities, house chores or even paid work. There is significant pressure from parents and society for teens to do well both in and out of school. Such pressure can be extremely stressful. Teen sleep may be compromised as a result. It is important that sleep hygiene or habits are practiced earlier on especially in the teen years. Sleep hygiene include adherent to a regular of schedule of sleep. Avoid long day time naps that can affect one’s sleep at night. The use of stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, during the day and especially toward evening should be limited. Teen should try to have some down time for the mind to slow down before sleep. Technology can greatly influence negatively teen sleep. Avoid watching TV, texting or staying on the computer prior to sleep as this may provide ongoing stimulus that may impact sleep. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing may be helpful. It is also important that teen should not get into a habit of taking sleep medication, both over the counter or prescribed to achieve sleep, as regular use of sleep aids may adversely affect the quality of sleep, thus resulting in not feeling refresh despite the length of sleep. Most importantly, the use of illicit substances such as alcohol or taking sleep medications not prescribed to them is a must to avoid.A take home message is that sleep is important to teens. It is important not only related to school performance but with adequate good quality sleep, teens health can be remarkably improved. Additionally, practicing good sleep habits as a teen will help them continue such habits as adults, thus reducing the potential impact of stress later in life. The Acadia Hospital in The Youth Services Sleep Hygiene Project will be sponsoring Sleep Awareness Month in April. For more information, please contact Sally Carlisle at 207-973-6016.