Teens are getting less sleep these days — and it could make them more likely to have heart disease as adults.
Over the past 20 years, the amount of sleep that teens get has dropped significantly. Only about half of them regularly get more than seven hours of sleep, with older teens sleeping less than younger ones — which, given that the recommended amount is eight to 10 hours, is bad news.
This is bad news for all sorts of reasons. Our bodies need sleep. When we get less sleep, not only are we cranky, we are less able to learn new information, our reaction times are longer, we may have behavioral changes or mental health problems — and it affects our health.
In a study just published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at the sleeping habits of 829 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 16, with a mean age of 13. They found that a third of them slept less than seven hours every night, and nearly half of them were fully asleep for less than 85% of that nightly sleep time.
But here’s where it gets worrisome. The researchers found that those who got less sleep were more likely to have a high “metabolic risk score.” They were more likely to have belly fat, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood lipids, as well as insulin resistance, something that increases the risk of diabetes.
So not only are sleep-deprived teens more likely to do poorly in school, be depressed, and get into car crashes, they are also more likely to have heart disease when they are adults.
While homework, other activities, and early school start times certainly contribute to teens getting less sleep, the biggest culprit seems to be electronic devices. The blue light emitted from them can wake up the brain, making it harder to fall asleep (the “Night Shift” setting on the phones does not entirely take care of this problem) — but more commonly, teens simply stay up late using them.
This demands action. We can’t just sit back and say that “teens will be teens” when it comes to sleep — not when their future health is at risk.
Here’s what parents can do:
- Make a rule that electronic devices get turned off an hour before their teen needs to fall asleep (meaning eight to 10 hours before they need to wake up). It’s best if they are charged outside the bedroom, so that there is no temptation to respond to alerts. A second choice is to have phones on “Do Not Disturb,” which quiets all alerts except alarms (although buying an alarm clock is a viable alternative that many people forget about these days).
- Enforce this rule.
- Prioritize sleep. Sit with your teen and look at how their time is spent, and map out the day so that they can get to bed on time. If their homework and other activities make it impossible to get at least eight hours of sleep, then something needs to give. Physical and mental health needs to be more important than whatever it is they are doing instead of sleeping.
- Support community efforts to have later high school start times. Teens are biologically wired to fall asleep late and sleep late, and when we make them get up really early for school, we are only making everything worse.
We want our kids to have a good future. That’s why we talk to them about avoiding tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, about working hard in school and staying out of trouble. And it’s why we need to talk to them about sleep.
Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren
Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Philippians 4:8 ESV Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Isaiah 26:3 ESV You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
Philippians 4:4-9 ESV Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. …
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Proverbs 4:23 ESV Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Romans 12:1-2 ESV I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 7:23 ESV But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Matthew 21:22 ESV And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
James 1:8 ESV He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Philippians 2:5 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Jeremiah 33:3 ESV Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
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