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Teenagers need sleep for mental health! And they aren't getting it.

How important is sleep? Teenagers who get less than 8 hours of sleep nightly have a 300% increased risk of suicide--not to mention a higher rate of depression, and difficulties in school. This recent article from a respected pediatrics journal is a "wake-up call" to parents of teenagers.

I have included a copy of the article below with my highlighting, which you can zoom in on and read. I'd like to throw out some points that I think are interesting.

I think a huge one is how the relentless, incessant use of social media by teenagers is contributing to loss of sleep. The article cites the fact that the use of electronic devices before sleep greatly decreases sleep quality, but I feel there is a larger issue. Teens today base a dangerous amount of their feelings of self-worth on their online image. The inability to let go of the constant maintenance of this false self is harmful to life in general, not just sleep.

Additionally, the way high school schedules are set up is really bad for teenagers' sleep. As the article notes, teens' brains are wired to fall asleep later in the evening, and to sleep longer in the morning. But schools start as early as 7:30. I feel that much of that instructional time is wasted. Of course, most parents have to work, so this schedule is not likely to change. We overworked adults are overworking our children, as though this will make the world a better place. I don't have an answer to that.

See what you think of the article. I also was fascinated by how sleeplessness can look like ADHD, and how driving safety is a major concern.

On a larger note, I always clients who come to me with depression, "What is your sleep like?" In therapy, as in medicine, you don't jump to the complicated treatments until the simple ones have been shown not to work. Usually I find that an intentional focus on caring for the body does wonders for depression--especially when it comes to keeping a regular and appropriate sleep schedule. In one case I cured a young man's depression simply by working on altering his sleep schedule 15 minutes every day until in three weeks he was back on track.

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