For teens, sleep and school performance go hand-in-hand, so make sure the transition from a busy day to a restful night’s sleep is smooth, and eliminate the types of things that tend to make sleep less than restorative. Problems with learning and memory from lack of sleep can lead to bad grades. How can they maximize their learning capacity? By getting more sleep! Sleep helps strengthens their ability to learn new things and convert new learning into long-term memories.
A study of 207 students who slept at least six hours per night found that sleep is essential when something new. They found that studying either during the day or right before bedtime made no difference in retention when tested after 30 minutes. But for those that had a good night’s sleep had better memory of what they learned if they studied right before bedtime verses those who studied earlier in the day. So the result indicates that sleep helps memory when they study right before going to bed. How can you test this theory? Challenge One: Try reading something you have little knowledge of and take a nap. Have someone test your knowledge when you wake up.
Another study revealed that hearing sounds during sleep improved memory after waking up. Is this the equivalent to putting your text book under your pillow to absorb the contents? Challenge Two: Record your test notes on an mp3 player or find the right audio material for the subject you will be tested on. You or the audio material should be as monotone as possible so it doesn’t have loud or sudden sounds that might wake you up. Set the mp3 player to repeat for the best results. Test yourself after a few nights to find out what you’ve retained and if needed continue until you see improved recall skills.
In addition to the negative impact to memory and grades, teens that are sleep deprived have been found to have other crucial issues that impact their lives. Their health, emotional stability, behavior, ability to make important decisions, sport performance, their growth, weight gain, condition of their skin, risk to injury, their mood and their likelihood to use drugs and alcohol are just some issues affected by a teen’s lack of sleep.
A new Brigham Young University study found that high school students perform best on tests if they get at least seven hours of sleep. They feel that 10 year olds need 9-9.5 hours, 12 year olds 8-8.5 hours and 16 year olds perform better with 7 hours of sleep, just like adults.
Scientists don’t know exactly how sleep enhances memory, but it appears to involve the part of the brain where long-term memories are stored. It is thought that during sleep it reviews and processes memories, helping them to last for the long term. In almost every case, no matter which type of memory was involved, one fact remained constant. After first learning the task, sleeping on it improves performance. Why is all this important? Some sleep researchers believe that for every two hours we spend awake, the brain needs an hour of sleep. This sleep time is used to figure out what all these new ideas mean. Clearly, sleeping plays a crucial role in helping teens with memory and performance.
How can teens improve their quality of sleep for better memory? One way is to have good sleep habits. Planning time for homework or studying for a test to avoid an all-night cram session is an important step. Regular exercise performed at least three hours before bedtime improves not only their health but their sleep quality too. Also avoiding or limiting the amount of caffeine whether in candy, soda, coffee, aspirin or energy drinks after 2pm. Waking up and going to bed at the same time as well as taking time each night to wind down will get them make sleep habit that will last a lifetime and maybe, just maybe they will wake up naturally in the morning without an alarm clock or you yelling their name 10 times! To help their melatonin kick in (the hormone that controls their sleep/wake cycle and is essential for relaxation and rest) start dimming the lights. And this means cutting back on computer time, TV and video games during the time they are winding down. Their bedroom should be free of gadgets, be dark, quiet and cool to insure the best sleep possible.
As for parents, it is important to recognize the significance of sleep and support your teen in getting enough. Your active support for good sleep habits noted above will help your teen get the sleep they need.
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