June 8, 2022
Sleep is a study strategy, sleep is a mood regulator, and there are practical ways for teens to improve the quantity and quality of their sleep. Those were the takeaways of my column: “Three Things to Teach Your Teen About Sleep and Your Brain.”
When I talk to high school students, the topic of their sleep—or lack of it—often comes up. So I was delighted to read an early copy of Lisa L. Lewis’ new book, “The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, And How Parents And Schools Can Help Them Thrive.”
This book is an outgrowth of Lewis’ previous work on the topic, including her role in helping get California’s landmark legislation on healthy school start times passed. Here are a few of the questions I had for her—because we all shoulder some responsibility for systems that keep our kids sleep-deprived.
DFK: Why this topic? What gets you fired up about sleep & our teens?
Lewis: I didn’t fully realize the scope of the issue until I started looking into it in 2015—the year my son entered high school. I knew his school’s 7:30 a.m. start time felt much too early, but I quickly learned that this was the case in far too many districts around the country, not just ours! It’s especially concerning that only about one in five high-schoolers get at least 8 hours’ sleep on a typical school night. That’s the minimum they should be getting: the recommended range (until age 18) is 8-10 hours a night. Our teens are chronically sleep-deprived, which has far-reaching implications for everything from mental health to graduation rates.
DFK: What’s one piece of actionable research that you wanted to share with every teen and parent when you discovered it?
Lewis: It makes intuitive sense, but the role of sleep in emotional resiliency is such an important one. Also, one researcher I spoke with found that teens and preteens who’d gotten a good night’s sleep reported having fewer arguments with their parents!
DFK: Yes! That reminds me of something Lisa Damour once told me—that sleep deprivation is one of the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns and that “sleep is the glue that holds human beings together.”
So we know it’s important. But there’s a lot of blame thrown around about teens and sleep: it’s the school’s fault for assigning…