Sleep hygiene and teenagers

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Young people, especially teenagers, can establish poor sleep hygiene as they try to balance the increasing demands on their time. Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. Secondly, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day. Scientific studies correlate prolonged sleep deprivation with:

  • Decreased ability to learn
  • Lower memory retention
  • Lack of concentration and focus
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Poor decision making
  • Negative behaviour
  • Lack of emotional control
  • Mood swings
  • Increased frustration
  • Lost motivation

The Sleep Center at the University of California, Los Angeles suggests these strategies for encouraging beneficial sleep patterns:

  • Try to create a calm atmosphere in the home at bedtime.
  • Teenagers should have a regular, relaxing routine just before bedtime. They often have busy, hectic schedules. They need a chance to unwind at night.
  • Teenagers should avoid activities that will excite their senses late in the evening. They should find another time for computer games, action movies, intense reading or heavy studying.
  • They should not have anything with caffeine (including sugary drinks and chocolate) after 16:00 pm.
  • A regular exercise routine and a healthy diet will help them sleep better at night.
  • Keep the lights dim in the evening. Open the curtains or blinds to let in bright light in the morning. This helps keep their body clocks set at the right time.
  • If they must take a nap, they should keep it to under an hour.
  • It can be hard for teenagers to get enough sleep during the week. They may need to wake up later on weekends. But they should not wake up more than two hours later than the time when they normally rise on a weekday. Sleeping in longer than that will severely disrupt a teenager’s body clock. This will make it even harder to wake up on time when Monday morning arrives.

Phillip Bird
IB DP Director

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