The stereotypical image of a teenager collapsing into bed in the early hours of the morning, followed by dragging himself downstairs for breakfast at noon, is a common sight in the media and meant to be funny, but it downplays the frightening reality of teen sleep deprivation.

The lack of sleep is so prevalent and so serious among today’s teens that a 2014 report from the American Academy of Paediatrics called it a “health epidemic.” Teenagers around the world are getting less sleep than ever, and it is beginning to affect school performance, behaviour, mood and personal health. As these problems continue to mount, the need for a solution to sleep deprivation in teens is becoming more urgent.

Dwindling Sleep Time

A series of surveys conducted between 1991 and 2012 showed that teens were leaving home each day without enough sleep and getting even less of it as time went on. Over the course of the decade, survey results showed a six percent drop in teen respondents saying they got “enough” sleep every night. Over half of teens aged from 15 to 19 reported sleeping for seven hours or less on most nights.

Bigger demands and higher pressure are partly to blame for the sleep deficit. Most of today’s teens are trying to juggle school, extra academic activities, sports and part-time jobs while still hoping to fit in time with friends. With all these activities on their calendars, it’s almost impossible to maintain a regular sleep schedule. However, regular sleep is exactly what teens need to stay healthy and focused.

The Science of Teen Sleep

Research shows that teens need just as much sleep as younger children, if not more. The recommended amount of sleep during teen years is nine to ten hours per night, a number rarely reached except on weekends when many teens sleep in to “catch up” on the sleep they have lost during the week.

Teens only appear to need less sleep because, during puberty, something shifts in their bodies and pushes their natural “bedtime” later into the night. Although this mechanism isn’t fully understood, it appears to have something to do with the release of melatonin, a hormone responsible for controlling sleep cycles. Melatonin naturally rises in the evening, but this rise may not trigger tiredness in teens until as late as 11 o’clock.

To get the proper amount of sleep to compensate for later melatonin release, teens would have to sleep until eight or nine in the morning. However, many are forced to get up much earlier in order to make it to school on time.

Sleep and Suffering School Performance

Take the U.S. as an example. Around 43 percent of public high schools start classes before eight, meaning that teens must sacrifice beneficial morning sleep most days of the week. A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation showed that over 25 percent of teenagers tend to fall asleep in class, and 87 percent of high school students fall short of the recommended nightly amount of sleep. A lack of sleep makes it more difficult to concentrate, leading to poor school performance, lower grades and difficulties in learning and retaining new information.

Some schools are beginning to realise the gravity of teen sleep deprivation. In the late 1990s, the high school in Edina, Minnesota, shifted its start time to a little over an hour later in the morning. The University of Michigan researched the effects and found teens reported feeling better, less sleepy and more driven, and both failure rates and absenteeism dropped. As other schools followed suit, further studies showed similar results even with start times pushed down by as little as half an hour.

Dangerous Deprivation: Sleep and Teens in Society

The same National Sleep Foundation poll also showed the problems with early school start times points towards an even more serious trend of drowsy driving among teens. More than 50 percent of teens polled said that they had driven when feeling drowsy at some point during the last year, and 15 percent had driven in a sleep-deprived state within the last week.

A study done in North Carolina highlights how serious this situation can be. Fifty-five percent of accidents which were caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel happened to people under the age of 25. The more pronounced sleep deprivation in teens becomes, the more likely they are to have trouble staying awake while driving.

Running on a sleep deficit can also affect mood, as illustrated in a study showing a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts among teens for every hour of sleep lost per night. Sleep deprivation and sleep problems often go hand in hand with substance abuse, heavy drinking and impaired judgement, which might even prompt risky sexual behaviour.

When teens don’t have enough time to rest and recharge, they become more hyperactive, impulsive and disobedient. They’re more likely to suffer from depression and turn to alcohol or prescription drug abuse in an attempt to feel more stable.

Better Sleep Hygiene for a Brighter Future

Promoting better sleep for teens should start at home with smarter sleeping habits:

  • Going to bed at the same time every night, including weekends
  • Turning off Smartphones and other devices before going to sleep
  • Limiting stressful or violent movies and video games at bedtime
  • Diversifying study time to avoid “all-nighters”
  • Creating a calm, uncluttered bedroom environment
  • Avoiding caffeine consumption late in the day
  • Getting exposure to bright, preferably natural, light upon waking

Parents need to step up to the plate and enforce bedtime rules as much as possible to help teens establish and maintain healthy schedules.

If schools, parents and health organisations work together to give teens the time they need to get a healthy amount of sleep, it’s possible to solve the problem of teen sleep deprivation across the globe.

Moving the start of the school day to later in the morning and unburdening kids from excessively heavy homework loads is just the beginning. Teens need to be offered the leeway to relax and be educated on how to develop healthy sleeping habits.

Better sleep can lead to healthier, happier, more productive teens and a safer society for everyone.

Want more?

Curious how we can upgrade our economic system so it supports the quality of your life and of those you care for?

In the book “Happonomy, Roadmap to Utopia”, Bruno Delepierre takes you on a 300 page journey to explore how work, money and technology impacts the quality of your life. Expect insightful analyses, intimate portraits and 35 daring recipes for upgrade. Interested? Take a look!

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If you’re a parent, you probably want nothing more than to raise happy children. You want them each to have a childhood that feels comfortable and safe, as well as bringing them joy. You know that their experiences in childhood can have an effect on how they approach life in the future, and you want to do everything you can to contribute to their chances of living a satisfying life in the future. 

Add all the contradictory parenting advice out there to the mix, and you’re bound to feel a little unsure or overwhelmed about how to give your kids the best start towards having a content lifestyle. Fortunately, scientific research has been conducted over a multitude of dimensions regarding what leads to happiness in children. Let’s break some of them down into three aspects of happy kids based on science. It seems that a great deal of the research on the subject leads us to the characteristics of parents, outside relationships and self-regulation.

Characteristics of Parents

One of the key components for raising upbeat and emotionally healthy children is to be that way yourself. It’s been shown that kids whose parents are happy are also likely to be happy. It makes sense that adults who manage their stress well and are generally content will be able to have the necessary energy required for taking care of their children.

Parents as role models

Kids depend on their parents for more than simply providing the basics of survival. They look to the caregivers in their life as a model for how to approach life. If your kids see that you are nurtured across various areas of your life, and that you have the emotional energy to attend to their needs, they will feel more secure. This security does wonders for enabling them to approach life in a manner that is open to abundance. 

Celebrating together

Along these lines, it is important to embrace happiness as a family unit. Doing so sends the message that being cheerful is important. One way to do this is to celebrate often. Of course, there are the special days for which celebrations are expected. However, taking time to make a big deal over the everyday things such as a stellar report card or the last day of school carry just as great an impact, and perhaps more so, because celebrating these things demonstrates intention. You’re going out of your way to express joy when it’s not expected. Implementing family traditions is another way to instil a sense of happiness in your kids.

Creating positivity

Ensuring that your marriage (or other primary relationship) is strong goes a long way towards cementing a sense of positivity in your kids. When children see that those who are responsible for their care are content within their own relationship, it allows them the security to pursue their own endeavours without worrying about their solid foundation at home. 

Outside Relationships

Building healthy and positive relationships with others has a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of children. Interacting with others allows children to learn about interpersonal relations. In healthy and supportive relationships, kids learn that it’s safe to trust people and to open up to them. They also learn about ‘give and take’. Having an understanding of compromise early on can go a long way towards building safe, secure and healthy relationships in the future. 

Doing good is feeling good

In addition, doing good for others increases levels of satisfaction in children. Teaching your kids to be compassionate and encouraging them to give back is a tremendous way to raise levels of contentedness. People simply feel good when doing good for others. Teaching your kids that they share the planet with a variety of people allows them to feel a part of something even greater. There have been a number of negative outcomes when it comes to a lack of relationships. These include psychiatric problems, legal issues and academic difficulties. 

How to raise happy kids based on science

Self Regulation

Much of kids’ overall levels of fulfilment come from inside themselves. Those who learn about self regulation and management from an early age will undoubtedly continue to build upon those abilities throughout their lifespan. You can help to instil your children’s inner happiness meter by teaching them skills such as self-sufficiency, body confidence, emotional intelligence, positive thinking and self-discipline. Allowing your kids to be self-sufficient and to practise independence is one of the most important steps you can take towards promoting their happiness.

Learning from mistakes

Learning and making mistakes are crucial parts of life. Kids who aren’t given the opportunity to think for themselves, to try new things and to make mistakes will become dependent and fearful as they go through life. Encourage your children to try new activities, to figure out what they’d like to do for the day or even to come up with ideas for their own punishments. This type of critical thinking will make them emotionally stronger individuals. 

Dealing with negative emotions

Speaking of emotions, self-regulation of negative emotions and proper expression of them are also means by which children can learn to become more satisfied adults. If you teach them at an early age how to handle things such as anger, disappointment and frustration in healthy ways, they will be able to grow more satisfying relationships and feel more confident in their own abilities to handle life’s struggles.

Supporting body confidence

Body image is a big deal in our society. The media portrays an image that being thin is the only acceptable form of beauty, especially for girls. This can lead to emotional destruction throughout one’s life. However, building a more realistic view of body image can go a long way towards instilling confidence around the way your children feel about their appearance. Be mindful of your statements regarding your own body and how you feel about it. Demonstrating confidence in this manner can have a big impact on your kids.

These are just some examples of the science of happy kids. As you can see, there are a number of proactive steps you can take across three primary life aspects that can help to improve the chances of raising a well-adjusted and content childAre you a parent and do you have any solid advice to give? Just post your comments below. 

Want more?

Curious how we can upgrade our economic system so it supports the quality of your life and of those you care for?

In the book “Happonomy, Roadmap to Utopia”, Bruno Delepierre takes you on a 300 page journey to explore how work, money and technology impacts the quality of your life. Expect insightful analyses, intimate portraits and 35 daring recipes for upgrade. Interested? Take a look!

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