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How does lifestyle affect a teenager's sleeping patterns?

Biological changes are an important part of the teen-sleep picture, but they don’t tell the whole story. Combined with these biological shifts are environmental and lifestyle factors that also can interfere with teens’ sleep:

Early morning school schedules. The typical early-morning start to the school day functions in direct opposition to the circadian changes teens undergo. There have been efforts among scientists and policy makers to adjust school schedules to shift school start times to later in the morning, to bring them at least somewhat more in sync with adolescent sleep patterns. But for now, most teens (and parents) cope with school days that start at or before 8 a.m., making it difficult for many to get the recommended 9 hours of sleep a night.

Academic and extracurricular workload. With adolescence comes the academic rigor of high school, the looming prospect of college for many students. Teenagers often face academic pressure and heavy homework loads during these years. Many teens keep a rigorous schedule of sports and other extracurricular activities on top of school, which often means homework doesn’t get started until evening. Research shows that skimping on sleep in favor of studying doesn’t pay off -- but it’s a common practice nonetheless.

Technology and the light that comes with it. Teens today are digitally connected in ways that most of us could never have imagined when we were growing up. Smart phones, tablets, laptops -- teenagers are constantly engaged with personal technology and social media. These new technologies pose real hazards for sleep for teens. The teen-sleep technology problem is twofold: the mental stimulation of many of these activities can be a deterrent to sleep, and the light emitted from these devices can disrupt teens’ already fluctuating circadian rhythms, making it even more difficult for them to wind down in the evening.

Given this constellation of challenges, it’s little surprise that most adolescents aren’t sleeping enough. A large-scale study conducted by the CDC found that nearly 70% of teenagers in the U.S. aren’t getting sufficient nightly sleep during the week.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.