Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lack of Sleep in Adolescents Correlates to Risky Behaviors

As adults, we know that sleep deprivation over time can impair our judgement as much as being intoxicated.  Personally speaking, when I don't get enough sleep for a few days I become more emotional and less able to deal well with the inevitable stressors that life throws at us.

Imagine, then, adolescents who are sleep deprived trying to regulate the swell of emotions and feelings that come with being a teenager while trying to do well in school, manage their relationships, and think about their futures.

A recent study talks about how youth who reported getting less than eight hours of sleep were more likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex, and fights, and more likely to be struggling with depression.

What does this mean for us as school counselors?  When we have students who are presenting with some of the problems mentioned above, one of our questions for the student and their families during our assessments and conversations should probably be about sleep and lifestyle--how many hours of sleep are you getting?  When are you getting to bed?  Do you feel rested when you wake up?  If they are not getting regular sleep, this could be contributing to their problems.  We know that with more and better sleep, they will be better able to regulate their emotions and make clearer decisions.

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