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Why Sleep and Nutrition Are So Important For Teens

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Why Sleep and Nutrition Are So Important For Teens

The issues of teen sleep and nutrition are far more important than many people may realize. While they are sometimes discussed, they don’t seem to get the attention they actually deserve, and therefore, the importance of these issues is often minimized. As teenagers, you are gaining independence and making more and more of your decisions on your own. This often includes decisions about your own nutritional habits and how much you sleep.

Teenagers are notorious for staying up late, either due to homework, being busy with activities, or just talking to friends. Social media has most definitely made it harder to ‘turn off’ for the night and get those much needed zzz’s. And since you’re busy doing activities, sports, and hanging out with your friends a lot, teens tend to eat a lot of junk food and make poor nutritional choices. If you really understood how truly important sleep and proper nutrition are to your overall well-being, I am confident that you would pay more attention to these issues and hopefully make some small changes and better decisions for yourself. So, keep reading.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 70 percent of students sleeping seven hours or less on a school night. The recommendation is eight to 10 hours per night. You need enough sleep to do well in school, work and drive safely, and fight off infection. Not getting enough sleep may make you moody and irritable. Sleep is when your body and your brain recharge and heal themselves. If you do not get enough sleep, your body and brain are not functioning at their full potential. This can actually affect your life in many negative ways. You might get ill more often, you will not be able to perform at your peak athletic potential, it will affect your concentration, memory and ultimately your grades, it makes you less alert as a driver, and so much more. Restoring sleep is strongly associated with a better physical, cognitive, and psychological well-being. By contrast, poor or disordered sleep is related to impairment of cognitive and psychological functioning and worsened physical health.

Similarly, your nutritional choices have a huge impact on your overall functioning, and your physical and mental health. While I am totally okay with teens eating a moderate amount of junk food, the balance with proper nutrition is necessary. You cannot thrive on junk food alone. Eating well is imperative, and that actually starts with a good breakfast before you start your school day. Not only is this important for your energy and weight, it also has a profound impact on your concentration and your grades. Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast improves brain function, in particular memory and recall. This is necessary for you to acquire new knowledge and ability to apply it later, for example during a test. Research shows students who eat breakfast perform better academically. Nobody knows exactly why, but it likely has to do with supplying nutrients to your body which give your brown some needed power. It could even be that it just alleviates your hunger, which can interfere with academic performance, behavior and self-esteem. There is even a connection between eating well and sleeping well!

With all of this knowledge, you ought to be better equipped to make some positive changes and choices for yourself. Nobody expects teenagers to get this perfect. Here are some small but important changes you might be able to make. Even though they are small, they could impact you in big ways.

  1. Eat breakfast. If you don’t have time for or care much for a full hot meal, at least have a bowl of cereal or grab a banana and bagel on your way out the door. Something is always better than nothing.
  2. When purchasing snacks or eating out with your friends, try to choose something with at least a moderate amount of nutritional value. For example, peanuts or trail mix instead of candy.
  3. Set a goal of at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you don’t get that every night, at least maybe you can get it some of the nights. Time management might help you accomplish this.
  4. Turn off and unplug. Have a certain time each night that you put away all of the devices and say goodnight to your friends. You don’t have to be available to them 24-7. They will still love you.
  5. Keep a book on your nightstand. Instead of reaching for your phone if you can’t fall asleep or if you wake up in the night, just reach for that book until you feel sleepy again.

As teens, you are becoming more and more responsible for yourselves. Use that ability wisely and in the healthiest possible ways. This is a good place to start, and you will reap the benefits of this even into adulthood.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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