According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need approximately nine hours of sleep every night, but many are not getting the recommended amount of rest time. While it’s true that most teens have busy schedules with school, homework, extracurricular activities and their social lives, a lack of sleep can also take a toll on a person’s body in the same manner as junk food or not working out. Sleep deprivation can limit teenagers’ ability to learn and concentrate and often weakens the immune system making them more susceptible to illnesses. One of the most shocking revelations in the foundation’s study is that the brain craves sleep and will do whatever is necessary to get the rest it needs – regardless of where a person is or what he or she is doing.
Time management is a key for teens getting appropriate amounts of sleep. Often times, students feel as though there are not enough hours in the day, but through better time management and reducing or cutting back unnecessary activities, they typically find they have plenty of time to get the recommended nine hours of sleep. For example, students should try setting a certain time limit for finishing homework and eliminate all distractions such as the telephone, television and social networking sites to allow them to focus on completing assignments. Students often find that they are able to finish homework faster when distractions are removed which allows them to get to bed earlier. Reducing the amount of time students spend surfing the net, talking and texting with friends and the hours spent watching television will also add significant time to their sleeping schedules.
Another aspect of living a healthy lifestyle is maintaining a nutritional diet. Although fast food is convenient, too much of it is cause for concern. How many times have we seen teens grab an unhealthy snack after school? There are literally hundreds of empty calories in some of these snack foods! Many of our teens are literally eating their way to future heart attacks and other conditions that come along with being overweight such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The good news is that there’s something that can be done to stop it.
Altering our diet is not easy, but it can mean the difference between life and death. The LHSAA website offers links and suggestions that give students and parents tips for practicing a healthier diet. Two simple examples are to replace sugary juices and sodas with water at all meals and to replace a side of French fries with a serving of fruit or vegetables at lunch or dinner. Beginning a healthier nutrition plan does not have to be a drastic dining makeover. Small changes over time can lead to major health improvements.
Healthy lifestyle habits are easier to maintain if we start them while we are young and impressionable. Challenge yourself and the young people in your life to make small improvements that can extend and improve their lives. Stay active. Sleep often. Eat well…then play hard!