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Published on December 07, 2012

Attack of the Sleepless Zombie Teenagers

It seems like we’re living in The Land of The Zombies.

We’re talking of course about those groggy, sleep-deprived, up-all-night-sleep-all-day teenagers. How can we make our world safe again and turn those zombies back into real, live human beings?

First off, it’s important to understand that your teenager is not the only one. Sleep researchers have determined that the sudden onset of wacky sleep patterns is a biological fact of life for teens. The onset of puberty delays when the body releases the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin by about an hour-and-a-half. Secondly, adolescents simply don’t get as sleepy during the day – their need to sleep doesn’t build up as much during the day as it did when they were younger. And, teens are not as sensitive to morning light, so they don‘t spring to alertness quite as early at the start of the day.

However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially harmful. For instance, a 2010 study found that sleep loss can stunt neuron growth in the brain during the adolescent years. That’s bad, considering that the teen years are critical for cognitive development. And sleep loss can cause memory and processing deficiencies that some researchers have said mirrors attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And a study by the Centers for Disease Control showed that sleep-deprived teens are more likely to feel sad or hopeless, and to seriously consider suicide.

It’s recommended that teenagers get nine to 10 hours of sleep a night. Most kids don’t come close to that; a 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that a whopping 38.7 percent of teens are sleep-deprived, getting six hours or fewer a night!

But there are ways to make sure your teen is getting enough sleep, and the key is consistency. Here are two quick hints to have a more-rested, and therefore healthier, teenager:

  • Stick to a consistent bedtime. Given the fact they teens usually get up pretty early for school, it’s best if the lights are out by 10 p.m.

  • Keep wake times consistent too. Yes, even on the weekends. If your 15-year-old sleeps until noon on Saturday, they’re throwing off the rhythm of their sleep cycle. After an entire weekend on the “wrong” schedule, this just about guarantees a rough Monday morning.

Of course, actually enforcing these suggestions might not be easy. But it won’t take long for you – and your teen – to see and feel the difference.

Crozer-Keystone offers a multidisciplinary approach to the identification and treatment of all types of sleep disorders. CKHS also offers skilled care for pediatric sleep disorders through the Crozer-Keystone Pediatric Sleep Center at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. For more information or to make an appointment, visit http://sleepcenters.crozerkeystone.org or call 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703).

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Crozer-Keystone Health System

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Phone: 610-447-6316
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Phone: 610-447-6314
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Community Hospital
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Taylor Hospital

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