From the time they hit puberty until the age of 22, adolescents need about 9 hours of sleep a night to function optimally—to be physically, mentally and cognitively healthy. Tell this to nine out of ten teenagers (or their parents for that matter) and they will laugh. What teenager has time to sleep for 9 hours a night during the school year?
Very few. In fact only about 8 percent of American teenagers get the sleep they need, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The rest live with chronic sleep deprivation—some mild to moderate, but more than half (59%) with severe sleep deprivation, meaning they sleep on average six hours or less most school nights.
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that lack of sleep not only undermines our teenagers’ safety and their academic performance, but puts them at higher risk for depression and obesity. The AAP supports later start times for high schools and middle schools.
Policy changes may eventually help our kids stay awake in geometry—and behind the wheel on the way to school—but in the short term we need to do as much as we can to get our kids to build more sleep into their lives.
There are lifestyle changes that middle- and high-schoolers can make, and even several small changes can have a big effect on their well-being. We asked some experts for their advice on how to win back a couple of precious hours a night. Here’s what they said: