Electronic devices are a powerful distraction for adolescents who should be sleeping, say doctors. (iStock)

‘Many obstacles’ prevent teens’ getting enough sleep, says doctor

Doctors say teenagers should get between eight and 10 hours of sleep each night but several studies suggest they are getting less than that, and that can affect their psychological state, learning and attention.

Teens need sleep as do babies, says doctor

“It’s hard to look at a teenager…and think they’re still developing, particularly neurologically,” says Dr. Christopher Winter, neurologist, sleep specialist and author. “We look at a baby and think ‘we’ve got to get the baby sleeping just right…

“Yet for some reason, once a kid starts to have a little hair…underneath his armpit, we suddenly let them do whatever they want to do.

“ I think we have to be very careful and particular about those individuals too because they don’t manifest the lack of sleep the way we expect an adult to, but they still suffer the consequences.”

Working on school assignments or exams can be an obstacle to sleep, says Dr. Winter. (iStock)

School commitments, screens get in the way

Winter says the pressures of school assignments and extracurricular activities keep many adolescents from sleep but he also blames the temptation of electronic devices. “Sleep is fun, but watching Game of Thrones is a lot more fun and…why watch one episode when you can watch seven straight on your phone right there, shining in your face, when you’re lying in bed at night.”

He adds, there is also the lure of texts from friends, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube videos of cats playing piano or even academically worthwhile pursuits like documentaries.

Keep screens out of the bedroom, says doctor

On this issue, Winter thinks parents should be strict and oblige teens to keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. He says he could write a book about the excuses teens will use to try to keep their devices in the bedroom or the ways they will try to sneak them in. But he explains having screens in the bedroom is like having a toilet in the kitchen and one should just not do that.

When students have to stay up late to work on assignments or study for tests, Winter says he is not beyond letting adolescents sleep in a bit the next day and writing a note to the school excusing them for a late arrival.

As for making up for lost sleep on the weekend, he says, studies show that works only in the short term and a night of extra sleep should come soon after the deficit. Overall, Winter says, teens should aim as much as possible for 10 hours of sleep a night or 70 hours a week.

(photo: Jen Fariello Photograph)

Dr. Christopher winter explains why sleep is so important for teens and what are the obstacles to them getting enough of it.

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