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Falling asleep in class may signal that your teen isn't getting enough shut-eye.

Previously on this blog, we discussed the implications of sleep deprivation on young children — but the toddler, preschool- and grade school-aged populations aren't the only ones affected negatively by a lack of adequate sleep.

According to The New York Times (NYT) health reporter Jane Brody, many adolescents believe they can get away with depriving themselves rest during the school week by "catching up" on the weekends. Unfortunately, studies show that getting extra sleep on the weekends won't make up for lost time.

One study found that a meager, combined percentage of 9 percent of high schoolers in grades 10 and 12 get the amount of sleep they need to stay healthy and alert. "Two in three teens were found to be severely sleep-deprived, losing two or more hours of sleep every night," Brody writes.

Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of disease both in adolescence and in the future. Health risks include high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, according to a Washington-based sleep specialist Dr. Judith Owens. A lack of sleep can also increase the risk of car accidents and impair teens' judgment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers parents the following signals of sleep deprivation in their teenaged children:

  • Difficulty waking up and frequent yawning
  • Drinking caffeinated beverages for energy
  • Falling asleep in class or poor academic performance
  • Irritability, anxiety and a short temper
  • Doing homework late at night
  • Taking weekday naps lasting longer than 45 minutes
  • Sleeping in for 2+ more hours on weekends than on weeknights

Helping teenagers understand the importance of a good night's sleep is crucial to their development. Introducing healthy habits during adolescence can mitigate health risks, both now and in the future, that are associated with sleep deprivation.

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