If you’re failing math, you might think that you just need to study harder. If you’re not performing your best at sports, you might think you just need to practice more. But in both cases what you really might need is more sleep. Consider why.
Why do you need sleep?
Experts say that most teenagers need between eight and ten hours of sleep a night. Why is it important that you get enough sleep?
Sleep sharpens your mental skills. Sleep has been called “food for the brain.” It can help you improve at school, at sports, and in your problem-solving skills.
Sleep improves your attitude and mood. Sleep-deprived people are more likely to experience mood swings, feel sad or depressed, and have problems getting along with others.
Sleep makes you a safer driver. A study in the United States revealed that drivers aged 16 to 24 were “nearly twice as likely to be drowsy at the time of their crash” when compared with drivers aged 40 to 59.
Sleep promotes better health. Sleep helps your body maintain and repair its cells, tissues, and blood vessels. Quality sleep can also lower your risk of obesity, diabetes, and stroke.
What is keeping you up?
Despite the benefits we have mentioned, many teenagers aren’t getting the sleep they need. For example, 16-year-old Elaine says:
“My teacher asked the class what time everyone went to bed. Most said about 2:00 a.m. Others said about 5:00 a.m. Only one student said 9:30 p.m.”
What obstacles can get in the way of your sleep?
Social life. “It’s too easy to stay up late and waste time, especially on nights when I go out with friends.”—Pamela.
Responsibilities. “I love sleep, but it’s hard to get enough with such a busy schedule.”—Ana.
Technology. “My phone is a big reason I neglect my sleep. It’s hard to resist looking at it when I’m in bed.”—Anisa.
How can you get more sleep?
Check your viewpoint about sleep. The Bible says: “Better is a handful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6) Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Without it, the quality of your work—and even the quality of your fun—will plummet!
Identify your biggest obstacle to sleep. For example, do you stay out late with friends? Do you feel overloaded with homework and chores? Does your cell phone keep you up past your bedtime or wake you up after you’ve gone to sleep?
To think about: Overcoming your biggest obstacle will take some work, but the results will be worth it. “The plans of the diligent surely lead to success,” says Proverbs 21:5.
Of course, what works for one person may not work for another. For example, some say that a short nap during the day helps them sleep better at night. But others say that daytime napping has the opposite effect. Find out what works best for you. The following suggestions can help:
Give yourself time to wind down. If you start relaxing before it’s time to go to bed, you will likely fall asleep more quickly.
“It’s good to finish chores and other responsibilities early so that you’re not worrying about them at bedtime.”—Maria.
Be proactive. Rather than allow your circumstances to control you, take control of your schedule so that you get the sleep you need.
“I need at least eight hours of sleep each night. So if I have to be up earlier than usual, I calculate backwards to see what time I need to go to bed.”—Vincent.
Strive for consistency. Your body’s internal clock will work for you, but only if you train it. Experts suggest that you go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. Try it for a month, and see how much better you feel.
“If you go to sleep at the same time each night, your mind will be refreshed the next day. This will help you to be more effective in any activity that you perform.”—Jared.
“I’ve had to learn to limit my social activities in the evenings. If I don’t set a time limit for recreation, something is going to suffer, and it’s usually my sleep!”—Rebecca.
Let your phone “sleep” too! For at least an hour before bedtime, resist the urge to browse the Internet or send late-night texts to your friends. In fact, some experts warn that the type of light that comes from a phone, a TV, or a tablet can make it harder for you to get to sleep.
“People expect you to be available 24/7. But to be fully rested, you need to put your phone away.”—Julissa.