Teens and Sleep

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On a recent episode of the MTV series "True Life," a high school student suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome was followed. She finds it impossible to go to sleep at a regular time, instead staying up until the early hours of the morning and then finding it nearly impossible to get out of bed to go to school. When she does, she is constantly falling asleep and is unable to pay attention to class discussions. This was an accurate depiction of the problems some teens have related to sleep. Teens tend to have three major sleep concerns. One, they are naturally sleepier than younger children or adults. Two, they tend to get insufficient sleep during the week due to academic, social and recreational demands and try to make up for it on the weekend by sleeping late. Three, they have a delayed sleep phase, meaning they want go to bed later and sleep later than other age groups. Given late night activities such as text messaging and video gaming, this propensity can easily become a full fledged delayed sleep phase disorder in which bed time isn't until 3 or 4 a.m., and the ideal wake up time is pushed to around 12 p.m. This shift in circadian rhythm is facilitated by late night exposure to light, as when looking into a bright computer screen at 2 a.m. Teens almost always sleep late on the weekends. Some teens, however, find it almost impossible to get out of bed on any given day due to their sleep difficulties. This can easily result in missing school and becoming truant. Indeed, studies have shown that teens are sleepier than younger children or older adults. Their sleep is shallower and less restorative than the sleep that younger children get. When allowed to sleep as much as they would like, teens average 9 to 10 hrs per night, but few are getting anywhere near this amount. Indeed, as the start of the school day is earlier for high school than middle school, it is often necessary for high school students to get up as early as 5:30 a.m. to get to school on...
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