According to Drs. Cheryl D. Tierney and Harish Rao at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, a lack of sleep “can cause poor academic performance due to poor concentration, behavioral issues due to irritability, physical symptoms like fatigue and headaches, or mental issues like depression.”
The doctors offer the following tips for teen back-to-school sleep:
– Gradually adjust bed and wake-up times by 30 minutes every two to three days, over a couple of weeks.
– Do not make the mistake of letting teens catch up on sleep on the weekends. Because their internal clocks do not shift very easily, there should be some consistency. Weekend and weekday sleep and wake times should remain within a two-hour range.
– Good light exposure upon waking helps internal clocks and brains to sync with outside time.
– Adolescents need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. However, teens are often up until 11 p.m. or later because of sports, after-school activities and homework.
– Parents can help by scheduling their children’s activities to finish early enough so that they have time to wind down and get enough sleep.
– Drinks with sugar or caffeine should be avoided, especially after 3 p.m.
– Parents should not let teens take their smartphones and electronics into their bedrooms. Every person, regardless of age, should stop using these devices at least an hour before bed so that the light the devices produce does not interfere with the body’s natural melatonin production.