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Why Your Teen Needs to Get Enough Sleep

Why Your Teen Needs to Get Enough Sleep

Your teen may be suffering in school if they aren’t getting enough sleep.

Sarah Michelle Gellar played Buffy Summers in TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which, among other things, was about getting through high school on very little sleep. Buffy spent most nights fighting mythical creatures. As a result, she could barely keep her eyes open in class and her academics suffered.

While most high schoolers aren’t out all-night battling vampires, research finds most are sleep deprived. One study found 40 percent of teens in the US sleep less than seven hours nightly.

Many experts say this could be fixed by starting school later in the day. Recently, a pilot program called Sleepmore Seattle was introduced at two high schools in Seattle, Washington. The program delayed the morning start time from 7:50 to 8:45a.m. so teens could get a half hour more of sleep and experience less drowsiness during the day.

It paid off: Many teens improved their academic performance. The late start time was associated with a 4.5 percent increase in median grades. And teens from economically disadvantaged homes had better attendance and were late less often.

So, while you’re lobbying for a change of your teen’s school start time, you can also make sleep hygiene a priority at your house. Experts say teens need at least nine hours of sleep each night. Encourage your teen to develop a nighttime routine that achieves close to that. Regular exercise, physical activity and stress management help regulate the sleep/wake cycle. Also, the bed should only be used for sleep. No texting or tweeting!

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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