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Teen sleeping

Poor sleep in our teen(s) could be an early warning sign for teen drug alcohol abuse and highly active sexual behavior, according to a study by the psychology department at Idaho State University.

Sleep difficulties in adolescents can predict specific substance-related problems. Prior research has shown that poor sleep can predict alcohol-related problems and illicit drug use among adolescents and young adults in high-risk samples. Researchers found that sleep difficulties and hours of sleep can predict a number of specific problems, including binge drinking, driving under the influence of alcohol, and risky sexual behavior in a nationally representative sample.

“National polls indicate that 27 percent of school-aged children and 45 percent of adolescents do not sleep enough,” Maria M. Wong, professor and director of experimental training in the department of psychology at Idaho State University, said in a statement. “Other studies have shown that about one in 10 adolescents have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep almost every day, or every day, in the previous 12 months.”

“Sleep difficulties significantly predicted alcohol-related interpersonal problems, binge drinking, driving under the influence of alcohol, getting into a sexual situation one later regretted due to drinking, and even using any illicit drugs,” Wong said.

So what is a parent to do about their sleepy teen?

It is widely known among parents that teens are notorious for wanting to stay up late and for not wanting to get up early. If your teen fits this profile, it’s time to find out what’s behind this behavior and determine how you can help him or her get better sleep. Sleep research suggests that a teenager needs between nine and 10 hours of sleep every night.

A Teens internal Clock

Everyone has an internal clock that influences body temperature, sleep cycles, appetite and hormonal changes. The biological and psychological processes that follow the cycle of this 24-hour internal clock are called circadian rhythms. Puberty changes a teen’s internal clock, delaying the time he or she starts feeling sleepy and awakens.

Resetting the clock

Try not to argue with your teenager about bedtime. Instead, discuss the issue with them. Together, brainstorm ways to increase their nightly quota of sleep. Suggestions include:

Stick to a schedule – As tough as it might be, encourage your teen to keep weekday and weekend bedtimes and wake times within two hours of each other. Prioritize extracurricular activities and curb late-night social time as needed. If your teen has a job, limit working hours to no more than 16-20 hours/week. Remember 9-10 hours of sleep every night.

Caffeine – A jolt of caffeine might help your teen stay awake during class, but the effects are fleeting and too much caffeine can interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Winding down – Encourage your teen to wind down at night with a warm shower, a book or other relaxing activities.

Set it and forget it – Set the T.V. timer to go off in 30, 60, 120 minutes intervals.

Electronics – Turn the brightness down on their phone, tablet, ipad or laptop.

Eating – Make sure they’ve eaten dinner and or had a snack before going to bed (remember, nothing with caffeine). It’s nearly impossible to go to sleep when your hungry.

Or something else

In some cases, excessive daytime sleepiness can be a sign of a problem, including:

Medication side effects – Many medications — including over-the-counter cold and allergy medications and prescription medications to treat depression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — can disrupt sleep.

Depression – Sleeping too much or too little is a common sign of depression.

Obstructive sleep apnea – When throat muscles fall slack during sleep, they stop air from moving freely through the nose and windpipe. This can interfere with breathing and disrupt sleep. You might notice loud snoring or intermittent pauses in breathing, often followed by snorting and more snoring.

Restless legs syndrome – This condition causes a “creepy” sensation in the legs and an irresistible urge to move the legs, usually shortly after going to bed. The discomfort and movement can interrupt sleep.

Narcolepsy – Sudden daytime sleep, usually for only short periods of time, can be a sign of narcolepsy. Narcoleptic episodes can occur at any time — even in the middle of a conversation. Sudden attacks of muscle weakness in response to emotions such as laughter, anger or surprise are possible, too.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s daytime sleepiness or sleep habits, contact his or her doctor.


Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is a big deal. It can have serious consequences. Tired teens can find it difficult to concentrate and learn or even stay awake in class. Too little sleep may also contribute to mood swings and behavior problems, poor to average school/conduct grades. Drowsy driving can lead to serious – even – DEADLY – accidents. Be the parent, redirect your teen by helping them regain a better nights sleep. Your child will thank you or maybe even, hug you! If not, give yourself a hug. You did a good job and maybe even saved a life.

Poor sleep habits may be sign of teen drug alcohol abuse
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