Why Most Teens Need Two Hours More Sleep

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by Patrice on May 16, 2011 · 2 comments

in (15-18 years)

Parents and their teenagers struggle with the same problem. There are only 24 hours in the day, no matter what is on the schedule. While the single mom struggles with the need to provide for her family, upkeep of the home, car pooling, meal preparation, house work and parenting, the teenager also is juggling priorities. School takes up a big chunk of waking hours. Then there are after school activities, homework, chores and dinner, social activities and a bit of down time just to relax. All of this could be detrimental to the development of growing brains.

As the kids grow up and reach their teenage years, they want to stay up later in the evening. It’s long been believed that the older you get the less sleep you need, and the practice of letting older kids stay up past the time the little ones have been put in their beds has long been accepted by parents. Most of us are surprised to learn that our kids who have reached the finish line actually need a minimum of 9-1/2 hours of sleep each night to allow their brains to develop fully.

Dr. Mary Carskadon, director of Chronobiology and Sleep Research at Bradley Hospital and professor of psychiatry and human behavior with Brown University has done the research on developing brains of older teens. According to Carskadon, the brain develops during the sleeping hours, hooking up critical new circuitry.

The National Sleep Foundation has recently conducted a poll and found that most teenagers just aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, they are only sleeping for 7-1/2 hours a night on average. This is a deficit of 2 hours of sleep a night during the critical time of brain development. Besides interfering in the process of the development of the brain, the teens are putting themselves at risk with other problems. Insufficient sleep during the critical teen years puts them at risk for depression, obesity and immune problems along with cognitive problems including attention deficit disorder.

Experts also say that during sleep, the brain assimilates the experiences of the day, a critical process. The Chief of the Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch, Dr. Jay Giedd, claims that the frontal lobe of the brain undergoes drastic growth during the later teen years. In 16 to 18 year-olds important connections are being made within the brain during the hours of sleep.  Giedd, a neuroscientist, believes that sleep deprivation interferes with the ability of the brain to help us make decisions, control impulses or even figure out complicated priorities.

Being aware of the importance of good sleeping habits can help the single mom and her teenager plan a schedule around the 9-1/2 hour sleep requirement. It may mean cutting back on extra curricular activities or changing the at home routine, but the benefits of an early bedtime are worth it.

About Patrice

Patrice Campbell is a freelance writer working from the Denver area. Campbell started her writing career in the 1980’s, working for several Wisconsin local papers as a news, human interest and features writer, as well as a photographer.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish May 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Sleeping is really significant in teens since they are in stage where development occur and aside from that they engage in active sports.

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Karen May 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm

So I need to figure out a schedule for my teenage daughter, I think that she should be getting more sleep. I didn’t know how important it was for teens.

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