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August 6, 2012

High school students not getting enough sleep

Adolescents may have a reputation for sleeping excessively, but a new study shows that nearly none of America’s high school students receives adequate sleep – a potentially dangerous trend.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and based on the responses of 12,000 students in grades 9 through 12, an overwhelming 92 percent of high school students do not sleep enough on an average school night.

The National Sleep Foundation, Washington, D.C., strongly recommends nine hours of sleep per night for adolescents, with eight hours qualifying as borderline poor. Less than eight hours is considered insufficient.

Study results showed that nearly one quarter of adolescents averages only six hours of sleep per night, far below the ideal.

“Sleep is necessary for physical and mental health, particularly during the rapid growth phase of adolescence,” says Danice Eaton, Ph.D., lead study author and commander of the United States Public Health Service, Atlanta.

Unfortunately, early school hours coupled with genetics set teenagers up for exhaustion. “The natural sleep-wake pattern shifts during adolescence, making earlier bed times and wake times more difficult. The result for students with early school start-times is a chronic sleep deficit,” Eaton says. And at this crucial stage of development, not getting enough rest can result in a host of negative consequences.

Not only will a lack of sleep negatively impact performance in school, Eaton says, but it can also lead to a depressed mood, headaches and hazardous drowsy driving situations.

To get on the right track, Eaton recommends that adolescents avoid caffeinated beverages after lunch, and encourages parents to step in. “Establish a set bedtime before 10 p.m. on school nights and encourage them to maintain wake times on the weekends that are no more than two or three hours past their regular weekday wake times,” she says.

By learning healthy sleeping habits, teens will be early to bed and rising to their full potential.

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