On teenagers, sleep and the worry they don’t get enough

01/22/2014 12:00 AM

01/20/2014 2:13 PM

When my son was a baby, I’d sometimes check on him when he was sleeping, just to reassure myself he was still breathing. Now that he’s a teenager, I sometimes find myself inclined to do the same. Because on weekends when no athletic commitments fill his mornings, he can sleep and sleep and sleep.

And as the time slides toward noon – and the rest of the house is busy and even looking to lunch – I find myself thinking, is he really still sleeping? Really?

He is. Which isn’t all that odd, I know, because I remember a capacity for such sleep.

But it worries me, given all the news about teenagers and sleep, and how so many researchers have concluded that most American teens don’t get enough.

And “binge sleeping” – that is sleeping for hours and hours on weekends – isn’t a good fix, notes this piece on teenagers and sleep from Frontline http://to.pbs.org/1ahg6vg. That’s because sleeping until noon when most days you must be up at 6:15 a.m. for school just confuses your body.

Most teenagers need about nine hours of sleep a night and without it can see their moods and schoolwork suffer, research has found.

In fact, a study out in November tracked students and found that going to bed too late on school nights (so not getting that nine hours) led to “worse educational outcomes and emotional distress six to eight years later.”

Some communities have pushed for later school start times, citing such research and others that shows such a schedule would mesh better with teens’ natural sleep patterns. There is even a national petition on the issue.

But such an effort was a complete flop in Orange County, Fla., when it was tried back in 2008.

In our house, we do our best to follow the expert advice on teens and sleep – pushing for an early-as-possible bedtime and making sure phone and electronic devices are out of his room, so he’s not tempted to stay up and text or play.

But sometimes, between homework and athletics and eking out a little time for dinner and a shower, he just doesn’t make it to bed as early as we’d like.

And then sometimes, on the next weekend, he sleeps on and on, and I find myself peeking in his room just to make sure, you know, that he’s still breathing.

Entertainment Videos

Join the Discussion

The Wichita Eagle is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service