Just how much sleep do tweens and teens need? And why?

Just how much sleep do tweens and teens need? And why?

I am an evangelist for sleep. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of a good night's rest.

So of course I was thrilled when the topic for tonight's ChicagoNow blogapalooza was "Write about sleep."  I think sleep is valuable for everyone, but especially so for our tweens and teens.

How much sleep tweens and teens need?

WebMD says tweens between 7 and 12 years old should get 10 hours per night. The Mayo Clinic says teenagers need 9 hours per night.

I was pleased as punch when I heard my daughter and her friends, all age 13, talking about sleep and one of her friends said to my daughter, "You really value your sleep, more than most people I know."

It made me think of a post on the blog Grown and Flown in which a mom offered advice to tween parents, including "Teach your child to worship at the altar of an eight-hour night’s sleep and you have set them up for life."

But so many tweens and teens do not get sufficient sleep. Sadly, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that, on school nights, 59% of tweens and 87% of high schoolers fall short of the recommended amount of sleep.

Lack of sleep can have a substantial impact on tweens and teens.

Of a group of fourth through sixth grade students studied by Brown-Mackie College , half went to bed 30 minutes early, and half went to bed 30 minutes late for three days and then they were tested. Those that lost sleep experienced a loss of cognitive function that set them back by two grade levels.

In addition to causing problems with concentration and learning, "too little sleep also might contribute to mood swings and behavioral problems," according to the Mayo Clinic.

Physically, sleep is important for the significant physical growth that tweens are doing, as well as maintaining a healthy immune system.

An old Irish proverb  says, "A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything."

What can you do to help kids get enough sleep?

* Parents can talk to their kids about the importance of sleep, and not just talk the talk but also walk the walk. Set a good example, and get your zzzzz's. I can certainly do better with this, and I know that I'm a much easier person to live with and a far more patient parent when I'm well rested.

* Take devices at night, as well as limit screen time prior to sleep. The amount of sleep being lost to late night texting is staggering, as 4 out of 5 teens sleep with their phone, according to PBS. Tell your kids they are welcome to blame you when their friends wonder why they aren't available 24/7.

* Encourage your kids' schools to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy recommending that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later.

* Help kids prioritize. I know firsthand that it is really hard to juggle school and extracurricular activities and make sure kids get enough sleep. But in my book, keep my kid healthy is a top priority. If you don't have your health, you don't have anything.

Sweet dreams to you and yours!

This post was part of ChicagoNow's Blogapalooza. You can see all the posts on the topic of sleep here.

Prior Post: One Direction concert at Soldier Field: A parent's perspective

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