Sufficient sleep (8-10 hours a night for teens) provides the brain with the ‘offline’ time it needs to maintain health and promote learning. Sleep restores the body and brain by:
- Clearing the brain of the daily accumulation of neurotoxins
- Optimizing brain connections for learning, memory and mood
- Balancing hormones for growth and immune function
Insufficient sleep impairs brain function in a way that cannot be restored with caffeine or by “just trying harder to sleep.” The consequences of chronic insufficient sleep include impaired judgement, increased risk behavior, deficits in learning and problem solving, and increase risk for obesity and emotional disturbances like depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Many factors, like parent involvement and reduced electronic device use, can influence the likelihood of teens obtaining sufficient sleep. The largest impact occurs when public policies, like school start times are adjusted to align with the teenager biological clock. With this adjustment, research shows that teens get more sleep. The benefits of this change go far beyond improved teen health. When schools adopt later school start times, improvements are noted in physical and mental health, academic and athletic performance, and safety of adolescents in our communities.