For Teens, Advice on How to Get More Sleep

Thursday, January 26, 2006

· Think of sleep as food for the brain: Get enough of it, and get it when you need it. Even mild sleepiness can hurt your performance during a range of activities -- from taking school exams to playing sports and video games. Lack of sleep can make you look tired and feel depressed, irritable and angry.

· Keep consistency in mind. Establish a regular bed and waking time schedule and maintain it during weekends and school (or work) vacations. Don't stray from your schedule frequently, and never do so for two or more consecutive nights. If you must go off your schedule, avoid delaying your bedtime by more than an hour, awaken the next day within two hours of your regular schedule and, if you are sleepy during the day, take an early afternoon nap.

· Learn how much sleep you need to function at your best. You should awaken refreshed, not tired. Most adolescents need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep each night. Know when you need to get up in the morning, then calculate when you need to go to sleep to get at least 8.5 hours of sleep a night.

· Get into bright light as soon as possible in the morning, but avoid it in the evening. Light levels help to signal the brain when it should wake up and when it should prepare to sleep.

· Understand your circadian rhythm. Then you can try to maximize your schedule throughout the day according to your internal clock. For example, to compensate for your "slump" (sleepy) times, participate in stimulating activities or classes that are interactive and avoid lecture classes or potentially unsafe activities, including driving.

· After lunch (or after noon), stay away from coffee, colas containing caffeine and nicotine, which are all stimulants. Also avoid alcohol, which disrupts sleep.

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