Studies have shown that young children who keep a consistent bedtime schedule do better in school than those whose don’t. And as difficult as it can be to get a wide awake-toddler to settle down in the evenings, we generally give it our best shot because we know that it’s important for their development.
But as the kids get older, many of us tend to relax those bedtime rules. We often let our teenagers set their own bedtime schedules and assume they are getting enough rest. But experts say that the teen years are not the time to stop enforcing bedtimes and that doing so can have serious mental health consequences.
A new study out of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School finds that finds that sleep-deprived teens are three times more likely to suffer from depression than those who are getting a good night’s rest. And sleep-deprived teens are common. The researchers discovered that more than half the high school seniors who participated in the study were “excessively sleepy” and likely to doze off in the middle of reading, watching television or even sitting in a traffic jam.
While the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends high school students get at least nine hours of sleep each night, these sleepy students reported getting an average of just six hours on school nights and 8 hours on weekends. Among the students studied, 30% had strong symptoms of depression while an additional 32% had some symptoms.
What the study couldn’t determine was which came first, the depression or the lack of sleep. But while it is well known that depression can have ill effects on sleep habits, mounting evidence suggests that poor sleep habits can actually lead to depression.
So, what can parents do to make sure their older kids are getting enough sleep? Just what they do with younger kids: Turn off the television, cell phone and computer at a certain time each night and lay down some rules. But don’t forget about yourself! Experts say the average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Are you getting yours?
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