From academic struggles to depression and addictions, teens who burn the midnight oil may be in more danger than you think. Often, they’re staying up late in order to try to fulfill obligations such as studying for tomorrow’s test after a barrage of extracurricular endeavors. While such behavior might seem innocuous and even responsible, it can really do some damage when it becomes routine.
Evaluating Sleep Needs of Teens
High expectations and overbooked schedules can be problematic enough, but the sleep deprivation that accompanies those lifestyle choices can be damaging in their own right. How many American teenagers are getting the 9.25 hours of sleep per night their bodies require? Only 8 out of every 100. About 67 of those 100 get fewer than 7 hours of sleep each night.
The effects include having a zombie-like alertness level and lowered levels of Human Growth Hormone. The lower hormone levels take their toll in the form of problematic brain development and physical growth as well as lower immunity levels, higher anxiety levels, and even depression.
While Vicki Abeles, director of the documentary “Race to Nowhere,” lobbies for later start times for school days and national guidelines for sleep, parents can evaluate their own work ethics and how hard they push their kids: “We need to treat sleep as essential to our teenagers’ well-being and success by teaching them that sleep is as important as nutrition, exercise, studying, and free time.”
As a parent, you can start by making sure your teenager is in bed by 10, even if that means cutting out extracurricular activities so that homework can get done in time.
Caffeine Content Recommendations
Along with the focus on achievement and resulting sleep deprivation often comes a reliance on caffeine. Today’s energy drinks make caffeine-related risks reach new heights. Consider this comparison of milligrams of caffeine per fluid ounce:
- Chocolate Milk: 0.6
- Coca-Cola Classic: 4.5
- Mountain Dew: 4.5
- Jolt Energy Drink: 11.9
- K-cup Coffee: 15
- Starbucks Double Shot: 20
- 5-hour Energy: 69
- Jolt Endurance Shot: 100
Some teens are guzzling several highly caffeinated energy drinks each day, landing some in the ER with caffeine intoxication. Even for those who aren’t hospitalized, the risks of increasingly popular energy drinks are high enough to have prompted a report by a Miami pediatrician Dr. Steven Lipshultz. The reason is that these beverages include ingredients that can increase the effects of caffeine and often come with side effects such as diarrhea and nausea. According to Lipshultz, “They should be regulated as stringently as tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines.”
By helping your teenager take steps to getting more sleep, you’ll help improve his or her health and academic success rate as well as aid in relieving the need for artificial energy in the form of caffeine. Of course, your teen might balk at the idea of going to bed early, but this is definitely a battle worth fighting.