A Closer Look at Teenage Sleep Patterns: How Tired is too Tired?

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Now that school is back in session and homework assignments are being issued nationwide, many students will be dragging their feet on the way to class, as 43% of teenagers report that less-than-optimal sleep makes them unproductive the next day (according to the Better Sleep Council). Medical expert at the 15-40 Connection (http://www.15-40.org) weighs in on when to worry if a teenager is sleeping too much or is too sleepy.

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With school back in session and homework assignments being issued nationwide, many students will be dragging their feet on the way to class, as 43% of teenagers report less-than-optimal sleep makes them unproductive the next day (according to the Better Sleep Council).

What level of fatigue is normal, and how does one determine how much sleep a teenager needs?

"A teenager's sleep needs and pattern will vary as they grow older due to biology and changes in life," said Karen Albritton, MD, a board-certified oncologist and medical advisor to the 15-40 Connection, a non-profit focused on raising cancer awareness, action and advocacy among healthy 15 to 40-year-olds.

Dr. Albritton offers this teenage sleep advice:

  • Check Your Body's Sleep Needs: Log a sleep diary for one week and list the time you went to bed, fell asleep, any night-time awakening, and the time you woke up. Calculate your average hours sleeping and look for patterns over the week.
  • Make Time to Sleep: Most teenagers require about 8½ to 9 hours of sleep. It is essential that teens make time to relax and sleep, a growing body needs time to rest and recover from the day's work.
  • Stick to a Schedule: Try to go to sleep at a consistent hour that gives at least 8 hours of sleep on a weekday and 10-11 hours on the weekends.
  • Establish Good Sleep Habits: Avoid caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants and create a relaxing environment at bedtime that avoids bright lights, television, texting, loud music and computers.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you are regularly getting more than 10 hours of sleep a day and still feel tired, you should inform a parent and consider seeing a physician to determine what your body is trying to say.

"Sleepiness may be a symptom of poor sleep habits, but excess sleep during the teen years can be a sign that something is not right, and can sometimes be a real medical condition," stated Dr. Albritton. "It is essential that teenagers visit their doctor annually so serious ailments like cancer or disease can be detected early when they are easier to treat and survival rates are higher."

The 15-40 Connection is providing an incentive for healthy teens to go to the doctor for a physical exam, and those that pledge to see their doctor at Rock the Doc will be entered to win a $30,000 diamond ring, Apple® iPad, Nintendo Wii™ and more.

For more information about the 15-40 Connection become a fan on Facebook or visit http://www.15-40.org for news, resources and stories about how 15 to 40-year-olds can help raise awareness for early detection of cancer through advocacy and action.

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Brandie Gerrish
Hart Boillot
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