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Teens and Sleep

 

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

Remember when your little ones awoke at the crack of dawn and instantly called for you to start the day? As parents, we wish that our young children would sleep a bit later so that we may catch some more shut-eye as well. If we only knew then how our children’s sleep patterns change over time!

Newborn babies sleep, on average, sixteen hours a day. Toddlers of two to three years of age need to sleep between nine and thirteen hours a day, including naps. Preschoolers of four to five years of age average ten to twelve hours of sleep. Keep in mind that these are averages and there are always individual differences among children.

School-aged children begin to decrease their nightly sleep pattern. They have more responsibilities, including a long school day, homework, and other after school activities and family obligations. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done! An average ten year old sleeps only about eight hours a night.

And then we come to the teen years. In spite of their night owl activities during these years, the average teen requires nine to nine and a half hours of sleep each night, at least one hour more than the average ten year old. The reason is that teens are undergoing brain development and growth spurts during this stage of development. Johns Hopkins University Dr. Michael Crocetti found that this secondary maturation of cognitive (thinking) processes calls for extra sleep. When our bodies are at rest, all of these internal processes are able to be performed. Sleep deprivation delays this maturation process.

How can parents help their teen to sleep more? One way is to be a good role model yourself. Try to adhere to a regular sleep schedule. Cutting down on caffeine in the afternoon and evening helps. Getting regular exercise each day aids in falling asleep. One big obstacle to a teen’s sleep is staring at a computer or cell phone screen. And, finally, helping your teen to pare down an overly busy daily schedule helps calm the body and aids in achieving a reasonable bedtime.

Here’s to enough sleep for all. Happy dreams!

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at mc333@cornell.edu.

 

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