Sleeping isn’t just for babies

College students outside on the grass

Is your teen getting enough sleep? Today’s teenager is busier than ever. It’s recommended that teens get eight to nine hours of sleep a night, but expanding social lives, demanding homework and ever-present social media can make it difficult for adolescents to get the sleep they need.

We caught up with Joelle McConlogue, MD, a pediatrician at Bayside Medical Group in Pleasanton, to ask for her advice on helping teens get more zzz’s.

Why is sleep so important at this age?

Although your teenager’s internal clock may tell him or her otherwise, adolescents still need between eight to nine hours of sleep. This is still a time of physical, emotional and intellectual growth — and sleep is critical in positively influencing this growth.

What is your experience with your patients?

Most of my teenage patients admit they don’t get enough sleep, and that’s a trend we see for this age group across the nation. Their bodies are biologically programmed to stay up late, so it can be difficult for them to get the proper amount of rest on a routine basis. The best thing we can do is to educate teens about why sleep is important and to set guidelines when possible to keep their biological clock on a healthy cycle.

What are the benefits of getting enough sleep?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has reviewed many studies on how sleep deprivation can impact children. Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with physical and emotional problems such as hypertension, obesity and depression. On the other hand, getting adequate sleep on a regular basis has many benefits, including improving one’s attention span, memory, learning, and mental and physical health.

What advice do you give your teenage patients who aren’t getting enough sleep?

My first piece of advice is to minimize distractions and nighttime activities that may cause you to delay going to bed. Prioritize getting homework done earlier in the evening, and turn off screens—including laptops, iPads and phones—an hour or so before you turn out the light. I also remind my patients to avoid caffeinated drinks (especially at night), including many energy drinks.

Should parents play a role?

Absolutely. Even though teens are becoming increasingly independent during these years, parents can still set guidelines to help ensure good sleep habits. Media curfews are a good start, including requiring that devices be charged outside of the teen’s room to eliminate the temptation to pick up the phone each time a social media app pings. I also encourage parents to talk with their teens and help them manage their homework and sports and activities schedules to aim for a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule.

Dr. McConlogue is a pediatrician at Bayside Medical Group in Pleasanton, which is now accepting new patients. In addition, the Pediatric Sleep Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford offers expertise in diagnosing and treating everything from common conditions like sleep apnea to more complex medical conditions that result in sleep problems. Our services include a comprehensive range of evaluations and treatments for children from birth through adolescence who experience sleepiness or sleeplessness.





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