School, Cell Phones Cause Tired Teens
> 9/10/2007 1:38:10 PM

As kids return to school this month, we are reminded of just how important, and evasive, a good nightís sleep really is, especially for youth. Most teens do not get the 8-9 hours per night which is recommended for adolescents, and the consequences of this consistent lack of sleep are significant and can even be deadly. Tired teens are more likely to perform poorly in school and, because the symptoms of sleep deprivation in children and teens include hyperactivity and inattention, could be misdiagnosed with ADHD. Research also indicates that sleep deprived people of all ages are twice as likely to be obese, perhaps because a lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that can affect appetite and metabolism. And of course, teens who donít get enough sleep are especially at risk for drowsy driving.

School has always been named as one of the main reasons kids donít get enough sleep. Pressure to be involved in multiple after-school activities, hold a part-time job, and complete homework on time keeps teens up at night, but school starting times are also to blame. The bodyís internal clock changes during puberty, meaning that most teens donít start feeling tired until after 11. Because high schools start between 7 and 8, teens have to wake up between 6 and 7 in order to get to school on time. Some schools have tried starting classes later, and their results show how significant an extra hour or so can be. When Minneapolis high schools pushed the start of classes from 7:15 to 8:40, overall grades increased and the attendance of ninth graders increased from 83% to 87%. When schools in Fayette County, Kentucky made a similar change, they reported a 15% drop in car accidents involving teens.

Aside from school, technology has also been cited as a reason why people, and teens especially, lose sleep. Many teens keep a TV, computer, and cell phone in their bedroom, and these devices can become late-night distractions. Cell phones are especially taking the blame. A new study conducted by Jan Van den Bulck, PhD, of the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium indicates that many teens make calls and text message after having gone to bed. The researchers questioned students and found that students who used their phone after bedtime less than once a month were 1.8 times more likely to be very tired a year later. Those who used their phone after bedtime more than once a week were 5.1 times more likely to be very tired in a year. Only 38% of the students never used their cellphones after they had gone to bed.
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Sleeping well is one of the most important things we can do to ensure better physical and mental health, and learning good sleeping habits early in life is especially beneficial. To achieve better sleep, experts suggest going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants before bed, avoiding food and exercise before bed, keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom, and relaxing before bed. A restful night of sleep can make the morning seem brighter, and consistent sleep can make life healthier and more enjoyable.

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