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The Sleep and Weight Connection

4. How Sleep and Weight Are Related: Physical Issues

If you're overweight, you may have trouble getting good sleep. Overweight teens often don't sleep well. Your size may make it harder for you to get comfortable, taking you longer to fall asleep. Also, being overweight increases the chance of having sleep apnea, a condition that wakes you up over and over again during the night. Even though you don't notice waking up, you'll still feel tired in the morning.

Getting Enough Sleep for Teenagers

So why is it so hard to get enough sleep when you're a teen? In part, you can blame nature. Puberty changes your sleep cycle -- when your body craves and needs sleep. The internal clock that tells you when to sleep and when to wake up is getting reset. Plus, melatonin, the hormone in your body that makes you feel sleepy, kicks in later at night for teens than kids or adults. That melatonin delay could possibly keep you up when you should be catching the ZZZs you need to function the next day.

But you're not doomed to eternal drowsiness. Here are a few easy tips to help you get a good night's sleep.

  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night, even weekends, to give you at least 8 1/2 hours of sleep. And as tempting as it is, avoid taking regular afternoon naps or sleeping in on weekends. That will help you stick to your sleep schedule. If you really feel like you need a nap, take a power nap of only 15 to 20 minutes to help you recharge.
  • Wind down for an hour before bedtime. Turn off the TV, video games, computer, and cell phones. Stop texting! Stop cramming for your test. Instead, read or listen to calm music to chill you out so you can fall asleep.
  • Try not to have big meals (where you feel uncomfortably full) or heavy snacks right before bed. Avoid anything fatty or spicy that could keep your stomach working overtime to digest it. If you're going to have a snack, choose a food that can promote sleep. Sleep-inducing light snacks include a glass of milk, a small bowl of cereal, or a half of a sandwich.
  • Do not have caffeine after 5 p.m. Its effects can last up to seven hours.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet and dark. Consider having no TV in your room.
  • Walk, run, play sports, or dance to your fave music every day (but not right before bed). Your goal is to get moving for 60 minutes. Exercise or physical activity during the day will help you fall asleep and sleep more soundly.

If you still can't sleep, tell your parents that you're having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep so they can help you or take you to a doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD, FAAP on February 02, 2012
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