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Dr. Magryta: teens and sleep

Dr. Magryta

Teenagers are sleep deprived. Dubbing it the Great Sleep Recession, Dr. Keyes and colleagues looked at the data from 270,000 teens for self reported sleep patterns in the US over a 20 year period. What they found is not surprising as much as it is disturbing.

Nighttime sleep duration has consistently declined. Peak declinations occurred in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Girls were less likely than boys to sleep for 7 hours or more per night. Those subjects with the lowest socioeconomic status and ethnic minorities suffered from less sleep. Starting at age 12, more than 65% of the study participants obtained > 7 hours of sleep nightly. By the age of 18, this number was down to 28%. These numbers are far below the recommended 9 hours of sleep per night for teens. Previously newsletters have highlighted the consequences of this behavior.

Here are some sleep tips for all ages:

1) Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep.  Get dark shades and a comfortable bed.

2) Remove all video devices and unnecessary lights, i.e. bright alarm clocks, TV, computers, etc…

3) If you need to be up at 5 am, then get to bed by 9pm.  Teenagers need more sleep and should catch up on the weekend if they are struggling to get to sleep early enough during the week.  Young children are best served by a routine sleep time and wake time.  Their resilience for a lack of sleep is very low.

4) Reduce your consumption of caffeine or alcohol if you are having sleep difficulties. Both beverage types negatively effect sleep.

5) Treat medical conditions.  For example, if you are always congested and have sleep apnea look into food triggers and allergies.  I find that dairy is notorious for causing nasal congestion and its removal is curative for some.  If you are overweight and have sleep apnea, try a gluten free and sugar reduced diet for a month and see how you feel.  Consult your physician for appropriate preventative measures that can be taken to alleviate a medically induced sleep issue.

6) Exercise or do physical work everyday.  Our bodies love to sleep after a hard day.

7) Eat light meals at night.
8) Be wary of prescription drugs – here are some that affect sleep. Anti-histamines like benadryl, certirizine; heart medicines like beta blockers and diuretics can cause insomnia and cramps; SSRI medicines like prozac and zoloft can cause daytime drowsiness.

9) Practice breathwork, progressive muscular relaxation and meditation routinely.

10) If you are a light sleeper, try white noise devices.

11) 1 Hour before bed try reading to candlelight or dim light to help your body recognize that it is nighttime.

12) Avoid naps that last longer than 20 minutes!

13) Have a positive outlook about sleep. Think about the fact that you will sleep this night. Do affirmations of the greatness of your sleep.

14) Consider consulting a hypnotherapist to work on stresses and negative beliefs.

15) And most important of all – have a personal routine that tells your body it is time to sleep.


Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com


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