How to Stop the Zombie Teen Plague

zombie teen

Which is scarier, zombie or teenager? Both can be scary, but the zombie teen is unpredictable and honestly outright terrifying!

Often they are bright, pleasant, and full of energy. This is usually later in the evening when you are ready for lights out. Being partially nocturnal they stay up with the bats, scorpions, and cockroaches. When morning comes, generally all too soon, they don’t seem to wake unless a freight train comes crashing into their bedroom. These red-eyed creatures of the night rise groggy, cantankerous and incoherent. Their sleep loss leaves them exhausted and irrational, with little impulse control. They have lower academic performance, increased risk of accidents, and a higher incidence of depression than their peers.

How widespread is the zombie teen plague? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 40% of teens sleep fewer than 6 hours a night; serious sleep deprivation = zombie teen. Less than 25% sleep eight hours, and only 7.6% sleep the recommended 9-10 hours a night.

Why is this happening? Sleep researchers have discovered that the adolescent body clock is delayed, releasing melatonin about 90 minutes later at the onset of puberty. Teens don’t get sleepy as early as the rest of us. They get over stimulated by the sugar and caffeine laden energy drinks they chug to make it through the day. They are also more reactive to nighttime light. To compound this problem they are reducing their melatonin levels by up to 22% when clutching their glowing smart phones and tablets into the late night hours.

Teenagers are night owls, not early birds. Yet, they need to get up between 5:00 and 6:30am to make the morning school bell. How do we help them? The U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has suggested a later school time, which would give teens more time to sleep according to their natural sleep cycle (Teen Sleep Zombies on TODAY). Makes sense, later start times means more alert teens and better student achievement. Some schools do have late start, but this is not all that common. Perhaps Mr. Duncan can affect some change on this front? In the meantime, how do parents stop the zombie teen plague from infecting their family?

With two teenage boys at home my wife and I have some personal experience on this front. Admittedly it is not easy to stop the disease. You need strong endurance and a good plan of attack. These sleep hygiene tips should help you prepare for battle.

10 Tips to Stop the Zombie Teen Plague

  1. Make sleep a priority
  2. Remember you are the parent
  3. Body clock, same daily sleep and wake times— weekends too
  4. Set a 9-10 hour sleep goal
  5. Just say no to sugar and caffeine
  6. Screen time, power down at sundown – 2 hours prior to bedtime
  7. Bedroom, quiet and dark like a cave
  8. Temperature, find the comfort zone
  9. Meals, avoid heavy foods late in the day
  10. Liquids, stop sips two hours before bed

Start here, try these tips as preventative measures or to transform your zombie teen back into a happy, alert, bright-eyed human. If you need more help consider a sound sleep aid to help set the brain into a healthy sleep rhythm. Concerned your teen has chronic insomnia, (at least three nights a week for a month or longer)? Contact your physician for a closer look.

Sleep Rhythms: And the Beat Goes On

Sound Brain Fitness Series

Your brain is a grey, wet, squishy pattern seeking machine.  From daily changes in light to microsecond scale responses to music and voices, your brain runs on and generates the rhythms of your life.  And because we are so rhythmocentric at such a basic level, events that violate your normal rhythms often have serious impacts on us.  The field of chronobiology examines how the timing of environmental and internal events affects our cognition, our health and our daily life, whether it’s transient like focusing on a task or longer term like getting enough sleep.

Next week is National Sleep Awareness Week 2013. To kick it off I’ve invited neuroscientist and author Dr. Seth Horowitz back as my guest for another episode of the Sound Brain Fitness teleseminar series. Please join us for this free teleseminar on Monday evening, March 4th at 8 pm eastern for what is sure to be an engaging hour as we explore:

  • Rhythms of the environment and how they affect the rhythms of the brain
  • Rhythms and patterns of sleep – where they come from and what they do.
  • Interrupted sleep patterns – the consequences of insomnia, disruption, and EDS
  • Weapons of choice – tools for resetting the sleep clock and their side effects
  • Why an auditory sleep aid may be right for you

I hope you’ll listen. You can register here.

10 Reasons Sleep Matters

10 Reasons Sleep Matters

Sleep matters. But so few of us get enough of it.  According to the National Sleep Foundation more than 40 million American adults report having a chronic sleep disorder. But nearly three times that number—60% of adults and 69% of children— report trouble sleeping a few nights a week or more. Are you one of them? Perhaps you are, but don’t recognize it. Read number 10 on the info-graphic above now!

I have battled sleep troubles from time to time.  One contributing factor is that my mind is constantly swimming with new ideas and often won’t shut down. Vigilance also creates some sleepless nights. As a male I am biologically programmed to scan my environment for safety, even when asleep. So while my wife and children sleep soundly, my ears are monitoring the perimeter. And when something sounds out of place, I’m on it! Trouble is, when I hear that creak at 3:11 in the morning it is really hard to go back to sleep. Generally, I’ll lay in bed for a couple hours reading, playing Angry Birds, and seeing what the insomniacs are posting on Facebook.  Then, I’ll catch a quick 45 minute nap before I need to get up. Anyone with me here? I know someone can relate. I’ve seen your posts in my news feed at 4:00 am!

We really need our sleep, and lack of sleep comes at a high price. Read numbers 1-9 above. And if you don’t agree sleep matters. Well… Read number 10 again:).

Interested in learning more about about sleep? Listen to a recording of  last night’s Sound Brain Fitness teleseminar with my friend and neuroscientist Dr. Seth Horowitz on sleep science. Sleepless and want an answer now? You might want to check out a new program Advanced Brain Technologies released just today, The Listening Program® SLEEP.

Hey Sleepyhead

Sleep, we all need it, and for many it remains elusive. So much so, that the sleep industry generates billions of dollars annually from those looking for alternatives to counting sheep.

Sleep, or more accurately the lack of it, has been on my mind a lot lately. Our team at Advanced Brain Technologies and our brainy collaborators have been developing a novel neuro-sensory solution for the sleep deprived. I’ll share more on that when the time comes, but for now I want to tell you about an interesting article I stumbled on in Scientific American which really intrigued me.

The article reports an estimated 1 in 800 people suffer from hypersomnia, which is more or less a perpetual state of sleepiness.  A research study was recently published on this condition by a team of sleep researchers at Emory University. They found that a medication currently used to treat drug overdoses appears to help patients regulate brain chemicals linked to hypersomnia. While this team searches for answers for the perpetually sleepy, we’ll stay on the path of offering sweet dreams to the millions of insomniacs who need to catch their nightly zzz’s.

I’m curious, if you’re an insomniac or hypersomniac, how has this impacted your life? And, what solutions have you found helpful? Please share in the comments.