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A new policy statement from the Academy of Pediatrics highlights the importance of teenagersí sleep. The facts are that most teens donít get enough and this sleep deficit has potential negative consequences on school performance as well as a wide range of physical and mental health problems, including the risk of car crashes, obesity and depression.

The report states that adolescents should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. Parents, schools, coaches and the teens themselves must recognize this sleep need.

Why donít teens get enough sleep? Many factors contribute, including the timing of school, social activities, after-school work, sports and the use of electronic devices all combined with "phase delay" of the sleep-wake system that occurs in adolescence.

"Phase-delay" is the tendency to go to sleep later and wake up later then the rest of us. Adolescents take longer to fall asleep then children and adults and have a later secretion of melatonin that is a hormone released in darkness that precedes sleep onset.

The report, published in the Journal Of Pediatrics, points out that the one overarching factor that influences sleep duration for adolescents is school start time. Not being early birds , teens have a particularly hard time with early school starts. The axiom by Benjamin Franklin: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" is not applicable to young people.

The recommendation is that classes start no earlier then 8.30 for this group of students; that is the normal time frame for the Thames Valley Secondary School students.

Torontoís Eastern Commerce Collegiate is one of Canadaís few public high schools with a later start time. The administration has massaged the timetable with classes starting at ten and ending at four with a shorter time period for lunch. This enables students to get more sleep and thereby providing conditions conducive to good health and academic achievement. Student absents and lates have been reduced and the marks have shown improvement.

Many students donít realize how much sleep they need and think that they can catch up on weekends. However, getting regular and sufficient sleep during the week is a better strategy associated with better grades.

Sleep is important for optimal mood functioning and good health. Itís significance is sometimes overlooked especially by teenagers. Parents should remind their high school teens to adjust their sleeping patterns now that they are back in school.

Here are some sleep tips to keep in mind for teenagers.

Have a regular bedtime and more important a regular wake time.

Make time for breakfast.

If you must sleep in on weekends, limit it to not more than one hour.

Keep all electronic devices out of the bedroom including cell phones, computer screens and televisions. The light from the screens interferes and pushes back sleep time.

Set a screen time curfew.

Beware of caffeinated drinks especially energy drinks which are loaded with stimulants that are counterproductive to normal sleep processes.

A dark cool bed room is ideal for sleeping.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com