According to the National Sleep Foundation, American teenagers require about 9-1/4 hours of sleep a night, yet only 8 percent of them are getting it. A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that as much as two-thirds of high school students get less than seven hours of sleep nightly.

You might be wondering if parents are aware of this problem.  The answer is yes and not only are most parents aware of it, but their concern is nothing new. A report on sleep deprivation published in the March issue of the Journal of Pediatrics found the “concerns from the early 1900’s were similar to those of today.” Evidently, parents have worried about their kids getting enough sleep for generations.  According to Cornell sleep expert James Maas, “Every single high school student I have ever measured in terms of their alertness is a walking zombie,” and that description sounds pretty familiar to the parents of most teenagers.

Unfortunately, parents might actually be contributing to the problem.  When a parent encourages and applauds their teenager who stays up late to finish a homework assignment, they are applauding sleep loss.  Many times teenagers are pushed to the limit to succeed.  They are taught the importance of hard work and drive, but not the importance of a good night’s sleep. Add to that the possibility that parents are condoning the use of coffee, caffeinated soda and energy drinks to help their kids stay awake.  Yikes!  Mom and Dad it might be that you are a part of the problem.

So how do parents become a part of the solution? The first step is for you to educate yourself.

Realize that getting a good night’s sleep improves attention and focus and helps kids do well in school. The recommended amount of sleep is 12 hours a night for preschoolers (plus a nap) and 10-11 hours for elementary age kids.  For teenagers it is 9 – 91/2 hours.  These guidelines for the necessary amount of sleep are just that, guidelines, but they are a good place to start.

Sleep is as important as good nutrition, exercise, hard work and free time.  They all contribute to good health and balanced living.  Parents, be aware of your children’s sleep patterns and give the appropriate supervision.  That is as important as telling your four-year-old to eat his vegetables.

How have you encouraged a good night’s sleep?

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