Recent research suggests that there may be other consequences as well. Researchers have found strong links between insufficient sleep and a wide range of adverse outcomes in adolescents, including obesity, poor school performance, behavioral problems and substance use.
Theories abound as to why children and adolescents are not getting enough sleep. A barrage of overstimulation from a multitude of electronic devices, increased stress and early school start times undoubtedly all contribute to sleep deficits. While some things, such as school start-times, are out of a parent’s control, there are things that you can do to promote your child’s sleep:
- Know how much sleep your child needs and set bed times accordingly: elementary school-aged children need 10-11 hours of sleep each night; adolescents require 9-9.5 hours.
- Try to maintain the same wake-up time on weekends as on weekdays.
- Promote exercise, particularly out-of-doors activities.
- Strictly limit caffeine intake. Caffeine can be hidden in many products, such as sodas (other than colas), chocolate, pain relievers and protein bars.
- Avoid meals close to bedtime.
- Have consistent bedtime routines. For younger children this may be a bath, for older youth this could include reading time (avoiding books in the horror genre).
- Establish the rule that all electronics must be turned off at least one hour before bedtime.
- Create a sleep-promoting environment in your child’s room: a comfortable bed, dark shades, a cool temperature and quiet.