Dr. Charles Ison: Why Teens Try to Sleep All Weekend

Teenagers are legendary for sleeping all weekend if they are allowed. They do need a certain amount of sleep, 8-10 hours a night, to function properly.

One study showed that only 15% of teens even got 8½ hours of sleep at night. The sleeping on weekends is usually an attempt to make up the sleep deficit that teens build during the week.

Many important things happen when we sleep. For example, most of the growth hormone we make is secreted during this time.

We have an internal clock that influences the 24-hour patterns of our lives (circadian rhythms), including when we go to sleep and when we wake up.

In teenagers, this clock changes. They develop a sleep phase delay of two hours, so that they usually have a hard time getting to sleep before 11 p.m.

With such a late desired bedtime, getting enough sleep on weekdays becomes difficult.

It is even more difficult when other reasons to get less sleep are added: early morning school classes, homework, part-time jobs, sports, other extracurricular activities, socializing and electronics.

Certain medical factors can also cause a teen to get less sleep or be sleepy during the daytime.

Certain medications, even for colds, can cause daytime drowsiness. Depression, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and insomnia at night can also do this.

Lack of sleep can lead to moodiness, cause turmoil with friends and family and make them look tired.

It can also lead to poor performance in class or in sports, can affect memory, worsen acne and even cause driving accidents.

A teen’s brain will get the sleep it needs eventually, even if it is in class or behind the wheel of a car.

Certain things can be done to help a teen get more sleep.

Sticking to a sleeping and waking schedule is very important: bedtimes and awakening times should each vary by no more than two hours.

Limit caffeine intake. Any naps should really be no longer than 30 minutes.

Take the TV out of the bedroom. Electronics should be limited an hour before bedtime. Any screens that are used during this time by necessity should be dimmed.

Calming activities before bedtime, like showers or reading, may help.

Bright lights in the morning help teens wake up. Sleep is very important for teens.

Unfortunately, it is usually a low priority on their list of important things to do.