Back to School Blues

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • The National Sleep Foundation tells us that teens need between 8 ½ and 9 ¼ hours sleep every night. However, most teens do not get enough sleep to function efficiently. Several causes exist for this deficiency in sleep, but it all adds up to one thing - sleep deprivation. With the return to school approaching, the problems tend to escalate.

    It's that time of year again and all over the nation, schools will soon be back in session. Suddenly it all hits you - school, homework, maybe a job, dating, family, sports, and on and on. How on earth can you fit it all in?

    Did you notice anything missing in the above list? Right! Sleep. Unfortunately, that one commodity is also often missing from a teen's life. Maybe not entirely, but the majority of teens don't get the hours of sleep they need.

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    To add to the problem, as a person reaches puberty and the teen years, the body clock (Circadian rhythm) seems to change and even more sleep is needed. Melatonin (the hormone that controls sleep patterns) pours out at a different hour. The desire to sleep hits later in the evening and there's a burning need to sleep in every morning.

    Now, to complicate the situation even further, many schools start at a much earlier hour. Students have a hard time adjusting and get to school late, without breakfast, or too tired to function.

    So what's the solution? Some schools are discovering that the only way to get education back on track is to revert to the later school opening. Teachers realize that sleep deprivation makes it difficult to learn, causes students to have difficulty concentrating and even to become irritable and aggressive. Lack of sleep can disrupt the entire classroom.

    What can a teenager do to help compensate for having to get up earlier?

    • Establish a routine. Try to get to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same hour every morning, and this includes weekends.
    • Spend time doing something relaxing before bedtime. No violent computer games, movies or strenuous exercise.
    • Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol in the evening hours. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to eliminate them from your lifestyle entirely.
    • Keep your bedroom quiet, and just for sleeping. No computer, TV or stereo in the room.
    • Makes sure the bedroom is the right temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, and keep it dark at night, although the first thing upon awakening in the morning, either turn on the lights or let in the sunshine.
    • Get some exercise earlier in the day, even if it's just a brisk walk.
    • It may be necessary to give up some extracurricular activities in order to get the sleep you need. I know this may seem like a hardship, but losing your physical or mental health is more of a hardship.


    If you stick to these simple rules, you'll find you feel better, do better in class and become a happier person. Why not give it a try?

Published On: August 09, 2008