Teens and Sleep
This week my teenage son took his yearly standardized tests. He woke up at 6 a.m. to get ready for school so he can arrive just before 7 a.m. to take a test that will determine his future. More than half the students walked on campus with an energy drink, soda, or coffee in their hand. They were all yawning, dragging their feet, and looking like they could use two more hours of sleep. It's the almost the same scenario during a normal school day.
These aren't fresh, excited students. These are sleep-deprived people. We haven't created a system that is designed for them to become successful, educated individuals who can perform at their optimum level.
A poor diet, late-night video game sessions, hours of homework, and outside activities also complicate the sleep issue.
It's difficult to tell a 5'10" boy that his bedtime is 9 or 10 p.m. The world hasn't stopped or even slowed down by then. He gets tired around 11 p.m. or 12 a.m. and is sound asleep by 1 a.m. On the weekend, he sleeps until 11 a.m. and sometimes a little later. His friends are the same way.
We really need to look at our schools and community. We need to make sure that energy drinks and caffeinated beverages aren't being abused. But mostly we need to educate people about teens' need for sleep, their circadian rhythm, and their overuse of stimulants. We need to educate our doctors about screening our kids for sleep disorders when they say they're tired and can't concentrate. And we need to help to change this system so we can help our young people perform at their best.