Land of No Nod: The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

By: Tiger Clinic Pediatrics

Fatigue is a common complaint amongst our adolescent patients. Especially during this time of year as final exams, projects, and deadlines are quickly approaching. There are three components that factor into a person’s fatigue: nutrition, physical activity, and sleep. Any imbalance in these areas will cause a person to become fatigued. If your child or teenager experiences fatigue despite consistently eating a well-balanced diet, being physically active for one hour 4-5 days a week, and getting 8-10 hours of sleep at night, then notify your healthcare provider because there might be another reason.

How much sleep should I get?

  • Teens typically need about 8-10 hours of sleep per night. However, it is more common that teens are only getting 7 hours or less per night.

What are some factors that prevent teens from getting enough sleep?

  • Shifting of the biological clock. After puberty, a teen’s internal clock shifts about 2 hours. For example, if a teen fell asleep by 9 pm before, he/she typically is not tired until after 11 pm. This also means that he/she naturally will want to sleep 2 hours later the following morning.

  • Early school start times. Most school districts start classes by 9 am, but some students have earlier start times due to athletics or off-campus classes.

  • Having a busy social life. Most teens participate in after school activities on top of the homework that is assigned daily and must be completed each evening. Socializing also continues through phone and computer use, which can keep them up even later.

What is affected by not getting enough sleep?

  • Mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause teens to be irritable and moody all day. Controlling their moods can be an issue, and they can find themselves frustrated or upset more easily.

  • Behavior. Teens who are not getting enough sleep are more prone to risk-taking behaviors such as drinking alcohol and driving recklessly.

  • Thinking. Sleep deprivation can result in attention problems, memory problems, lead to bad decision-making, slow down reaction time, and stunt creativity. Therefore, impacting academic success. Sleep allows the brain to rest and store information into long-term memory for better recall.

  • Academic performance. Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to do poorly in school, fall asleep during class, have multiple school absences or be consistently tard.

  • Athletic performance. Sleep deprived teens are more likely to perform poorly in after-school sports due to slower reaction times.

  • Driving. Teens are the most prone to fall asleep while behind the wheel. This can be highly dangerous, especially combined with other negative effects such as slower reaction times and being easily distracted.

What can I do?

  • Keep track of sleep patterns and schedules.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Teens should be going to bed and waking up at around the same time everyday, including non-school nights. Try to keep the difference in sleep and wake times within one hour.

  • Be consistent on weekends. Although teens can stay up a little longer, they should not sleep in to catch up on sleep they missed during the week. It will make it harder to get back on track for their regular schedule

  • Create a sleep-friendly physical environment.

  • The bedroom should be comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark. A bedroom that is warmer than 75 degrees can make it harder to fall and stay asleep.

  • The bed should only be used for sleeping. Try not to do homework, watch TV, or use electronic devices while in bed. This inhibits sleep because it prevents your brain from winding down and relaxing while in bed.

  • Put away screens and electronic devices. The white light given off by screens inhibits the production of melatonin, a naturally produced hormone in your brain that induces sleep.

  • Keep a consistent bedtime routine. Try to “wind down” by doing less stimulating activities such as reading or listening to calm music. Do not use this time to watch television, cram in more studying, use the computer, talk on the phone, or exercise.

Additional strategies to help improve your sleep hygiene.

Try to:

  • Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. This may help you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply.

  • Take a break and go outside for some time every day, especially in the morning. Getting sun exposure helps your body keep its internal clock on track.

  • Eat meals regularly, and avoid going to be on an empty stomach. However, do not eat a full meal an hour before bed, and try to opt for a light snack instead.

  • Avoid caffeine. Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. (ex. soda, coffee, tea, or energy drinks)