How Much Sleep Do Teenagers Really Need?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this week announced that teenage sleepiness is a “public health issue” and urged schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. so teens can get more sleep. The group says teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep a night, and getting up for classes that start at 7 or 7:30 jeopardizes their sleep.

“A substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss,” the organization said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students.”

The AAP report claims that 28 percent of high school students report falling asleep in class at least once a week, and 20 percent say they fall asleep during homework as well. The group cites studies showing that teens who get their full measure of needed sleep have improved attendance rates and lowered dropout rates.

The problem with teens, even the AAP admits, is that they have a hard time going to bed before 11 p.m., and if they have to get up by 6 or 7, they can easily become sleep deprived.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) seems to be on the AAP’s side, saying that teens need 9-1/4 hours of sleep each night for best daytime functioning, though it says that some teens do well on just 8.5 hours of sleep.

The NSF says another problem with teens is that they keep irregular hours, often skimping on sleep during the school week and then sleeping in on the weekends to try to make up. This obviously goes against rule number one of good sleep hygiene: Go to bed and get up at the same time each and every day of the week.

Again, the NSF backs the AAP, noting: “Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m.”

Among the consequences of poor sleep among teens, in addition to school difficulties in concentration and focus, are aggressive and inappropriate behavior — and being more prone to developing pimples.

If you have teenagers at home, you should try to instill in them an understanding of how good sleep is vital to their success in life. Also, if you suspect they may have a sleep disorder — ranging from narcolepsy to insomnia to restless leg syndrome (RLS) and even to sleep apnea — then you should seek professional help for them.

Regardless of one’s age, good sleep is the common cure to daytime fatigue and lack of focus and achievement.

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