Is Your Teen Too Tired?

From the WebMD Archives

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Many teens argue that they "don't have time" to sleep.

Parents must encourage their kids to make choices. Teens may need help realizing there aren't enough hours to play soccer, hold down a job, and do homework. Something may have to give, and it shouldn't be sleep.

Is it OK to let my teen sleep in on weekends?

I'm all for kids catching up-within reason. It's fine for her to sleep an extra hour or two on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But "binge sleeping" can backfire: If a teen goes to bed late, then sleeps until 1 p.m. on weekends, come Sunday night, her body and brain aren't going to be ready for an earlier bedtime.

What else will help?

A later school start time. Most high school classes begin between 7 and 8 a.m. When the first bell is pushed back by an hour, kids will sleep nearly an hour more a day. In communities that have done this, the evidence shows fewer students arriving late to school, higher graduation rates, and a trend toward better grades.

Otherwise, my mantra for families is "make sleep a positive priority." Teach your children the importance of getting enough sleep; help them see how their sleep habits have a direct connection to how well they feel and perform. To my mind, sleep education is almost as important to a child's health and future as sex education-but luckily, it's a whole lot easier to talk about!

In some towns, teens sleep in every day

A later high school start time has been a big hit in Wilton, Connecticut. "Mornings in my house became so much more pleasant because there was less struggle to get my kids out of bed," says Catharine Kempson, whose four children were all teenagers when the Wilton district switched from a 7:35 start time to an 8:15 bell three years ago. One survey found that students got an average of 35 minutes more sleep per night after the change.

Wilton is one of dozens of districts that have done this. In the Minneapolis School District, a later start time has resulted in an increase in attendance rates and a slight bump up in grades. In Fayette County, Kentucky, the percentage of high school students getting at least eight hours of sleep rose from 21 to 51 percent, and the percentage of traffic accidents in the district dropped by more than 15 percent.

The process of switching usually takes a year of planning because it involves changing bus schedules and extracurricular activity times, among other things. To learn how to be an advocate for a later start in your community, go to wiltonlwv.org and click on the link to LWVCT School Start Time Concurrence.

WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine
Reprinted with permission from Hearst Communications, Inc.

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