Know! Sleepy Students and Substance Abuse

It’s a fact: Sleep is food for the brain; critical to our well-being. When we do not get our needed amount of sleep, our bodies and minds suffer as sleep deprivation kicks in. We feel grouchy and irritable, our level of alertness declines, as well as our coordination and our ability to react. Our thinking becomes clouded and we may struggle to remember, concentrate and make decisions.  For youth, insufficient sleep is additionally shown to be associated with a variety of health-risk behaviors, including adolescent drug and alcohol use.

WHY? Lela McKnight-Eily, a lead researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, ”Sleep-deprived students have a higher propensity toward risky behaviors due to a decreased ability to comprehend the consequences of negative behaviors, as well as an increased receptiveness to peer pressure.”

According to McKnight-Eily’s research, about 70% of teens are sleep-deprived. Between school, homework, sports and a mix of other extra-curricular activities, it’s no wonder getting enough shut-eye is such a challenge. Throw in the fact that during adolescence, the body’s natural sleep cycle shifts to keep children up later at night and in bed later in the morning, and it’s the making of a perfect storm.

For parents, the first step is to figure out how much sleep your child requires; the second is to figure out how to make it happen.

Recommended Sleep Based on Age (According to the National Sleep Foundation):
  • School-Aged (up to 12): 10 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (up to 17): about 9 hours
  • Adults: 7 to 9 hours
These are recommended hours based on age. But you will have to help your child figure out his/her individual sleep needs for optimal performance. 

Your child may not be getting enough sleep if he or she:
  • Regularly struggles to wake for school and yawns throughout the day
  • Can’t get through the day without caffeinated beverages to stay awake
  • Continually falls asleep in class and/or struggles to recall and concentrate
  • Naps for more than 45 minutes and sleeps in more than two hours on weekends
  • Runs from one activity to the next and stays up late to complete homework
Encourage more restful nights and fresher mornings with these tips from 
the National Sleep Foundation:
  • Consistent awake and sleep times (sleeping in no more than 2 hours on weekends)
  • Establish relaxing bedtime routine to wind down and prepare for sleep
  • Avoid TV and other electronics one hour before sleep to help quiet the mind
  • And it is best to take hold of cell phones or other electronic gadgets to prevent sleep disruptions
  • For optimal sleep, bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet
  • Basic, but effective - bright light in the morning will help to awaken the senses
  • Talk to your children about the importance of sleep and role modeling good sleep behaviors