Does your list of school supplies include sleep? Studies say it should, especially for teens.
Only 8 percent of American teenagers are getting the required nine or more hours of sleep needed, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, a recent study published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health” found that more than 60 percent of high school students get less than seven hours of sleep per night. The situation does not improve in college, either. A 2010 study conducted at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota revealed, not surprisingly, that 70 percent of college students get less than the 8 recommended hours of sleep.
While most people have, at times, battled sleep issues, poor sleep habits plague college campuses. Let’s face it: Most college kids do not place a premium on a good night’s rest. In addition to sleep falling low on the priority list, most students are sleeping on cheap dorm mattresses and worn out pillows which can affect sleep quality.
Perhaps reminding your student that there is a proven relationship between healthy sleep habits and academic success might help encourage healthier habits. In 2010, a University of Minnesota study found a significant positive correlation between the amount of sleep per night and GPA. Additionally, as the average number of days per week a student got less than five hours of sleep increased, GPA decreased.
Once a pattern of bad sleep has developed, is it possible for teens and college students to “reset” their internal clocks? Researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine say it is. Suggest that your students try following these tips, a little bit at a time, over several weeks:
• Try your best to avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol, heavy exercise and heavy snacking (pizza included) at least three hours before bedtime.
• Don’t pull all-nighters or cram for exams late at night. Specifically schedule studying for when you’re most alert so your performance won’t be affected.
• Be as consistent as possible with your sleep habits, ideally aiming to go to bed at the same time each evening and get at least eight hours of sleep per night.
• Wake up at the same time every morning and head outside. Sunlight helps reset circadian rhythms, the body’s internal biological process that rotates around a 24-hour schedule.
• Turn off your cell phone and laptop at night. Besides being a distraction, exposure to light can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep.
• Make sure your bedroom is set up for sleep. If you are a light sleeper or your dorm is noisy, try wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Keep the room cool and dark. Make your bed as comfortable as possible.
Consider investing in a foam mattress pad and a quality pillow. For example, for around $100, you can purchase a mattress topper and a waterbase pillow, both of which greatly improve head, neck and back support while you sleep.
“While you most likely cannot control the amount of sleep your teens or college-aged kids receive, at least you can make sure that once they are in bed, the sleep they do get is of the best quality,” explains Maurice Bard, founder and CEO of Mediflow Inc., a company that makes waterbase bed pillows. “One simple way to accomplish this is to make sure your teens are sleeping on the right pillow - one that adjusts to properly support their head and neck throughout the night.”
Countless studies have shown that people who get the right amount of sleep are physically and emotionally healthier — which is of course is something we all want for our children. Getting better grades is just the icing on the cake.