The Importance of Educating Children and Teenagers About Sleep Hygiene
With the close of summer comes the return to school for children and teenagers. For many, school might look a little different due to the coronavirus pandemic; however, whether school is taking place in a traditional setting or via an online format, it is important for children and teenagers to understand and maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
An AASM position statement on delaying school start times indicates that maintaining a regular sleeping schedule becomes increasingly difficult as children get older and extracurricular activities increase. In addition to their full social schedules, as children become teenagers, they “experience delayed patterns of melatonin secretion and a slower buildup of homeostatic pressure during wakefulness.” Due to these changes, the circadian rhythm is delayed, causing teenagers to fall asleep and wake up later.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), “teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” However, multiple studies report that teens continuously average less than eight hours of sleep per night.
It’s reported that the percentage of high school students who get enough sleep has decreased from 25.4% in 2017 to 22.1% in 2019. Chronic sleep loss wreaks havoc on the body, both physically and mentally. In adolescents and teenagers, chronic sleep loss has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular morbidity. Moreover, when these health issues begin in the teenage years, there is an increased likelihood that these issues will lead to poor health as the individual ages.
Studies have also shown that chronic sleep loss leads to a decline in academic performance along with decreases in motivation or drive and an increased risk of anxiety or depression. Fewer than 15% of U.S. high schools start their days at 8:30 a.m. or later, and 42% start at 8 a.m. or before.
In the START study conducted by the University of Minnesota, in which researchers looked to determine the effects of delaying school start times on adolescent sleep, it was discovered that students at schools that delayed start times received an average of 43 more minutes of sleep on school nights, slept less on weekends — accumulated less sleep debt — and had similar bedtimes when surveyed two years later. However, the average amount of total sleep time for these students was eight hours and five minutes — barely within the recommended eight to 10 hours.
To learn more about the importance of sleep hygiene education, read the full article in the 2021 Q3 issue of A2Zzz.