Forget the Birds and the Bees, It’s Time to Talk about Zzz’s


The SLEEP talk is the new sex talk, folks.

MTV True Life I Have Narcolepsy sheds light on teen sleep in America. While many young Americans suffer from undiagnosed chronic sleep disorders, the epidemic of sleep issues amongst teens is even more pervasive. 
A startling 70% of high school students are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep on school nights, according to a recent Centers of Disease Control and Prevention study. So what?

This insufficient sleep is associated with health-risk behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, fighting, physical inactivity, and being sexually active. It’s also associated with serious consideration of suicide attempts and feeling sad or hopeless. (Details here)

“Public health intervention is greatly needed,” Lela McKnight–Eily, PhD, Division of Adult and Community Health states, “and the consideration of delayed school start times may hold promise as one effective step in a comprehensive approach to address this problem.” 
The association between insufficient sleep and high risk behaviors doesn’t necessarily prove causality. However, the CDC study and MTV’s True Life I Have Narcolepsy suggest that sleep is in mix. 
As a teen, I only talked about sleep to brag about how little I got. Evading sleep was a key strategy towards achieving my American Dream of success. Evidence suggests that this attitude is wide-spread and may be hurting our youth. 
A few conversation-starters to talk about sleep with teens:
1. How long does it take you to fall asleep? 
2. Do you wake often during night? 
3. Do you feel rested in the morning? 
4. Any urges to sleep during the day? 
5. Any vivid realistic nightmares/dreams?
Consider whether the use of televisions, computers, gaming equipment and phones in the bedroom may be compromising your child’s ability to “shut down” at night. 
As we aim to protect our teens’ health and safety – the SLEEP talk is a good place to start.  Thankfully, it’s way less awkward than talking about sex, drugs or alcohol!


  1. gadgetfitter on November 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Well said Julie!

  2. Gail on November 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    So true! So many teens brag about how little sleep they get and most teen car accidents are caused by tired teens falling asleep at the wheel or alcohol.

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