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You can sleep when you die, right? Naps and set bedtimes are for little kids. By the time you’re a teen, you have way more important things to do than sleeping.

Wrong on so many levels. Actually, you’re less productive if you don’t sleep, and naps and set bedtimes are good for everyone (including you, your parents, and your grandparents). Sleep is an important foundation for everything else you want to do. So let’s talk about why you should get a full night’s sleep.

What is a full night’s sleep?

Recommended sleep time for teens is 8 ½ – 9 ½ hours (only slightly more than for adults—we’re talking 1 hour more). However, quality of sleep is every bit as important as quantity, so it has to be 8 or 9 hours of good sleep. We’ll get back to that later. First, let’s consider the consequences.

What happens if I don’t get enough sleep?

Death, doom, and destruction.

Ok, that might be a tad dramatic. But really, sleep deprivation is pretty bad. The list of negative side effects is ridiculous: sleep deprivation impairs your learning (let me translate: your A just turned into a C), causes emotional problems (like anger, grumpiness, and depression), increases the likelihood of obesity, makes you more susceptible to disease, more likely to abuse substances, more likely to commit suicide, and more likely to be killed in a car crash.

We’re starting to think that extra hour of texting/TV/gaming/homework/etc. isn’t worth it.

What happens if I DO get enough sleep?

So glad you asked! Basically the opposite of the nasty list above: your grades and athletic performance improve, you get a mood boost, you’re healthier, less likely to make poor choices, and safer on the roads.

Essentially, getting enough sleep might mean you have to do fewer things, but you’ll perform better and enjoy those things more. Sound like a fair trade?

If you are convinced, you might ask…

How do I get more sleep?

Great question! There are lots of strategies, but thankfully, most of them are simple. Here’s a short list:

  • Set a routine. Your body functions best if you go to sleep and get up at roughly the same times every day (including weekends—an hour variation is probably okay, but sleeping until noon will do more harm than good).
  • Relax. That means: don’t play video games, watch violent movies/TV shows, etc., before bed. Adrenaline is not a friend of sleep.
  • Turn down the lights. If you can, start mimicking a lower light about an hour before you go to bed. Try using lamps instead of overhead lights and always turn off your electronics—even your phone. The blue light in phones, tablets, and laptops is especially bad—it makes your body think you should be awake for much longer.
  • Try to exercise earlier in the day, at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime. Doctors have found that early exercise aids sleep (but of course, not if you get your blood pumping right before you lay down).
  • Avoid caffeine for about 4 hours before bedtime—that latte or Mountain Dew will stay in your system for hours. (Nicotine and alcohol, in addition to other problems, have a similar effect on sleep, so they should, of course, be avoided.)
  • Try to make your bedroom dark and cool. If noise is a problem, try listening to white noise—a fan, beach waves, etc.

In the end, getting more sleep may mean you have to cut out some activities you enjoy. But lightening your load is totally worth enjoying everything in life more!

What if you try all these things and you’re still tired? You may have deeper sleep problems, like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. Make an appointment with your regular doctor to get help.

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