Lack of Sleep Can Spell More Risky Behavior in Teens

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at a recent article by the U.S. News and World Report that draws on research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighting the relationship between sleep deprivation and tendency to partake in risky behaviors like substance abuse.

Has your teen been abnormally tired recently? Are they sleeping in class or staying up late on a regular basis? If so, perhaps they are suffering from sleep deprivation. Maybe it’s time for you to have a talk with your teen about the importance of maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 41 million Americans get six hours of sleep or less every night, and it’s even worse for teens. Less than nine percent of teenagers actually get the recommended amount of nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation is extremely common among teens, who can easily get caught up in the whirlwind of their schedules that are stacked with sports practice, part-time jobs, chores, homework, and other commitments. As parents, it is important to monitor how much your child has on their plate and examine any schedule modifications that may be necessary to improve their sleeping habits.

Lack of sleep affects the body’s ability to regulate itself, specifically the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain regulates decision-making and personal control over one’s impulses. This area isn’t yet fully developed in teens, and when they don’t get enough sleep they can increase their chances of making risky decisions like substance abuse and underage drinking. Additionally, sleep deprivation can lead to other behavioral concerns such as depression and anxiety, which can further influence teens to partake in risky behaviors.

If you’re looking for some suggestions to help regulate your teen’s sleep schedule, you should consider trying out the following:

  • Turn off devices earlier the blue light emitted from devices makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise in addition to improving overall health and reducing stress, exercising a few times a week can help teens regulate their energy levels, and help them obtain a deeper level of rest.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon or evening coffee isn’t the only culprit, most sodas have caffeine that can make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
  • Meditate before bed as little as 20 minutes of meditation or light stretching can help calm the body and mind and get ready to go to bed. (Tip: there’s tons of free instructional videos on YouTube!)
  • Turn off excess lights prior to bedtime making the room dim will help your teen wind down.
  • Read a book (not on a device)

You can learn more about detecting and preventing risky behaviors like teen medicine abuse by clicking here. Stay updated on new studies and trends in teen behavior, advice for keeping teens away from risky behaviors, general teen parenting tips, and more by keeping up with the Stop Medicine Abuse initiative on FacebookTwitter, and our blog.