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US Teens Are Sleep-Deprived, and It's a Big Deal: Here's What You Can Do as a Parent

11-14-2018

Half of all of the adolescents in the US are sleep-deprived, according to recent estimates. These numbers are alarming considering that sleep is essential during the teenage years. 

Researchers say teen development is a time of significant brain changes that affect learning, self-control, as well as emotional systems. 

Besides the physical rest which the body needs, sleep acts like glue to help the brain encode recently learned information into long-term knowledge, according to Adriana Galván, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles.  It also improves focus when the student is in the classroom. 

Simple Solutions: Get a Comfortable Pillow 

So how do you help your teenager get a better night's sleep? Galván says her research shows a solution that may have been overlooked and it's a simple one. Provide your teen with a comfortable pillow and bedding.

In the study, better sleep quality was reported by teenagers who were pleased with more comfortable bedding and pillows. 

But one size of pillow doesn't fit all. The research suggests letting your teen find a pillow that they feel is more comfortable for them – be it flat or fluffy.

Limiting Late-Night Tech Usage Will Help Your Teen 

But today's technology does take a toll on the quality of sleep your teenager is getting.

The Sleep Health Foundation reports that bright light from their mobile phone, tablet or laptop computer blocks the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin, after only 1.5 hours of using technology. So engaging in that much screentime before going to bed can delay restful sleep. 

Melatonin is the hormone that controls the sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm.  According to scientists, reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall or stay asleep. 

The foundation also discovered, using data gathered from more than 85,000 teenagers through an analysis of several studies of teenage sleep, that different forms of technology usage mean less sleep since teens keep playing, surfing, texting and chatting, resulting in a delayed bedtime.

Sleep researchers say your teen's mind simply needs some time to unwind after spending the day bombarded by technology. 

They suggest parents limit teenagers' interactive screentime to the early evening and switch to more passive technology options like watching television, movies or even reading in the lead-up to bedtime.  

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