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Sleeping enough?

A study of teenagers in Chicago, USA showed that they are not getting enough sleep and this affects their performance in school. It also leads to feelings of depression and low self-esteem. According to Jean Rhodes, a psyschologist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, children start sleeping less when they reach the age of 11 and the problem becomes more serious as they grow up.
When children enter puberty, which occurs around 9-14, they receive the nightly dose of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleepiness, at later and later times. However, children are also robbed of their sleep because most schools start early and give too much homework. Parents involve their kids in too many after-school activities, like drawing, music and dance as well as tuitions, leaving them little time for sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens between the ages of 10 and 18 need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night. But they’re getting an hour or two less than this. One 1998 survey found that 85 per cent of teens were chronically sleep deprived and built up a sleep deficit of at least 10 hours during the week. More than a quarter of those teens said they got less than 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night.
The new study, published in the January-February issue of Child Development, focused on the influence of sleep patterns on 2,529 11- to 14-year-olds. The survey also included questions about the marks teens were getting, depressive symptoms and assessments of self-worth.
The study found that on average, school-going children lose about 15 minutes of sleep a night each year between the sixth and eighth standards. Girls get a bit more sleep than boys when they enter secondary school, possibly because girls tend to reach puberty earlier and this creates an initial desire for sleep.
But over time, the decline in sleep time was steeper for girls than boys.
“Girls start waking up earlier for school because they need more time to get ready, or have more morning chores at home compared to boys,” said Rhodes. “But by the time they start high school, boys and girls are about the same in terms of lost sleep."
So, the typical teenage mood swings that are said to be the marks of adolescence are very often due to lack of sleep. Kids who got less sleep were having problems, but those who were getting more sleep had positive things happening for them.
While it’s unrealistic for parents to expect teens to go to bed at 8 p.m., they can set bedtimes and schedules for homework and evening activities that ensure the kids are getting at least eight or nine hours sleep a night. Researchers advise fewer extra-curricular activities that will give teenagers more time to sleep.Schools should start later in the morning and advise children and parents about how important sleep is for teens, and how they might get enough sleep each night.



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