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Inadequate Sleep Can Cause Serious Problems for Teens

Forty-three percent of U.S. teenagers report that less-than-optimal sleep makes them unproductive the next day, according to figures attributed to the Better Sleep Council.  That's just one of the many negative results of teen sleep problems; another, often tragically, is dozing off at the wheel of a car.

But what level of fatigue is normal, and how does one determine how much sleep a teenager needs?

Teenagers' "sleep needs and pattern will vary as they grow older, due to biology and changes in life," said Karen Albritton, M.D., a board-certified oncologist and medical adviser to the 15-40 Connection, a nonprofit focused on raising cancer awareness, action and advocacy among healthy 15- to 40-year-olds.

Dr. Albritton offers this teenage-sleep advice:

* Check the body's sleep needs. Have teens log a sleep diary for one week and list the time they went to bed, the time they afell asleep, any nighttime awakening, and the time they awakened in the morning. Calculate their average hours sleeping and look for patterns over the week.

* Make time to sleep. Most teenagers require about 8½ to nine hours of sleep. It is essential that teens make time to relax and sleep. A growing body needs time to rest and recover from the day's work.

* Stick to a schedule. Try to go to sleep at a consistent hour that gives at least eight hours of sleep on a weekday and 10-11 hours on the weekends.

* Establish good sleep habits. Avoid caffeine, nicotine or other stimulants and create a relaxing environment at bedtime that avoids bright lights, television, texting, loud music and computers.

* Listen to the body. If a teen is regularly getting more than 10 hours of sleep a day and still feels tired, he or she should inform a parent and consider seeing a physician to determine what his or her body is trying to say.

"Sleepiness may be a symptom of poor sleep habits, but excess sleep during the teen years can be a sign that something is not right, and can sometimes be a real medical condition," Dr. Albritton says. "It is essential that teenagers visit their doctor annually so serious ailments like cancer or [other] disease can be detected early when they are easier to treat, and survival rates are higher."

The 15-40 Connection is providing an incentive for healthy teens to go to the doctor for a physical exam, and those that pledge to see their doctor at Rock the Doc will be entered to win a $30,000 diamond ring, Apple® iPad, Nintendo Wii™ and more.

For more information about the 15-40 Connection, become a fan on Facebook or visit for news, resources and articles about how 15- to 40-year-olds can help raise awareness for early detection of cancer through advocacy and action.

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