WESTCHESTER, Ill. – Teenagers who stay up late on school nights and make up for it by sleeping late on weekends are more likely to perform poorly in the classroom. This is because, on weekends, they are waking up at a time that is later than their internal body clock expects. The fact that their clock must get used to a new routine may affect their ability to be awake early for school at the beginning of the week when they revert back to their old routine, according to a research abstract that will be presented Wednesday at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).
The study, conducted by Stephanie J. Crowley of Brown University in East Providence, Rhode Island, was based on the fact that high school students' sleep is typically restricted during the school week and is compensated by late and long sleep on weekends. It examined circadian phase, sleep quality and morning vigilance before and after simulating this weekend sleep pattern.
"When teenagers stay up late and sleep in over the weekend, this behavior resets their daily clock to a later time," said Crowley. "This resetting can push back the brain's cue to be awake on Monday morning for school. As a result, teens may feel worse and have poor performance in school at the beginning of the week. Essentially, teenagers may be giving themselves jetlag over the weekend even without getting on a plane."
The best way for teenagers to prevent late and long sleep on weekends is to ensure that they are getting the required amount of sleep each night. Experts recommend that teenagers get about nine or more hours of sleep each night to achieve good health and optimum performance.
Teens are advised to follow these recommendations:
- Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Do not stay up all hours of the night to "cram" for an exam, do homework, etc. If extracurricular activities at school are proving to be too time-consuming, consider cutting back.
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed and do something relaxing, such as reading a book or listening to music, until you are tired enough to go back to bed.
- Get up at the same time every morning.
- Avoid taking naps after school if you can. If you need to lie down, do not do so for more than an hour.
- Keep a regular schedule.
- Don't read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone or play cards in bed.
- Do not have any caffeine after lunch.
- Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal before bedtime either.
- Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
- Try to get rid of or deal with things that make you worry.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.
Those who think they might have a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.
The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.
More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The four-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.