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PERSONAL HEALTH : Think of Sleep As Homework

September 21, 1993|THE BALTIMORE SUN

So that high-schooler of yours has to be blasted out of bed, doesn't seem awake even when up and sleepwalks out the door? It's not just a symptom of back-to-school season.

"It's worse than that," says Richard P. Allen, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Clinic. "Many never get over it."

Between December and March, Allen conducted four surveys involving more than 300 students at five Baltimore-area high schools to study sleep patterns and their impact on academic performance.

"Our research showed a correlation between less sleep in the school week and poorer grades," he says.

"The average night's sleep on weekdays was seven hours and on the weekends nine hours," the clinical psychologist says. "Seven hours is much too little sleep for this age. Adolescents need nine to 9 1/2 hours a night."

Less than that amounts to sleep deprivation, "not a trivial thing."

But say your sleepwalkers make it to school. What then?

"They could be sleepy until 10 or 11 in the morning," Allen says. "That means the first two or three periods. They're not waking up fully until about time for lunch."

So what's a parent to do?

"On weekends, get the kids to bed as early as possible, no later than 1 a.m., to help in adjusting to the school week," Allen says. "That's not too much to ask."

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