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Sleep, your teenager, & teenagers doing their best


Regarding sleep, your teenager & teenagers doing their best, “they” say adolescents need 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, virtually all high schools start classes between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., which means those that take a bus to school may catch that bus as early as 6:45 a.m. Figuring a minimum of 45 minutes between getting out of bed and catching a bus and riding the bus for between 15 and 60 minutes, a kid needs to get out of bed one to two hours before arriving at school. If school starts at 8:00 a.m. and the travel time (walking, driving/being driven, riding a bus) is only 20 minutes, a teenager would need to get out of bed around 7:00 a.m. To get 9 hours of sleep by 7:00 a.m., a teenager would need to be asleep (notice I did not say “need to be in bed” as even the best sleepers need around 10-20 minutes to fall asleep. “They” say that if you fall asleep in fewer than 6 to 8 minutes, that is evidence you are not getting enough sleep) by 9:00 p. m. Yeah, right!! [Check out: Adolescent Sleep Fact Sheet and Guide to Teenagers’ Sleep Requirements]

Almost by definition our 9th through 12th graders will not consistently get more than 8 hours of sleep on school nights (and Sunday night can be the worst as nearly everybody, other than farmers, wake up later on Sunday mornings than during the week). Sooooo, the best we can do in helping our teenagers get as much sleep as they possibly can on school nights is facilitate their development of good “sleep hygiene” (a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness).

The two links identified above provide excellent information on the psychological and physiological markers of sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep) as well as what contributes to good sleep hygience. Probably the most contentious (between you and your teenager) are the indications around “screen time” and bedtime. Screen time includes time interacting with a computer or a smartphone and watching TV. I believe (based on what I’ve observed and read) that it serves our adolescents to not use a communications device (phone, smartphone, computer) past 10:00 p.m. on school nights, regardless of bedtime, and off of all screens at least a half-hour before bedtime.

You Can’t Do Better Than Your Best

Please review the two links I’ve identified as resources and do your best to help you children develop good sleep hygiene. As I mentioned in my previous post, Your teenager’s homework & free time, “Doing my best” is the over-arching agreement we have with ourselves, our parents (our loved ones), our teachers and coaches (supervisors). All other agreements stem from that one. Nobody, not even your teenagers (despite what they tell you) can do their best at anything (be it school, physical activities, getting along with friends, enjoying themselves, and most importantly, having things the way they want).

It’s not easy, nor is it simple, but it’s very important to note the connection between and the power and value of  your children’s sleep, your teenager & doing their best.  Please use Dr. Neal’s Corner (in the comment section below) to ask me specific questions regarding the “construction” of effective means of facilitating your teenagers’ sleep hygiene.  Also, please share  ways you have been successful in improving this for your children.

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