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Help for sleepy teens

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ORLANDO, Fla. – More and more research is showing sleep is important for our health and that's also true if you're a teenager. But a recent study found teens aren't getting enough Z's. In fact, only 15 percent reported sleeping eight and a half hours on school nights.

"It's not worth it to stay up and just feel out of it the next day," 16-year-old McKenzie Wilson said.

She knows what it's like to be tired all the time.

"It was like a real struggle to like get out of bed or like wake up," McKenzie said.

The teen slept 12 to 15 hours some nights and only three to four other nights. Doctors diagnosed her with narcolepsy, a disorder that wouldn't allow her to control her sleep patterns. It stopped her from enjoying hobbies like photography and from driving.

"I couldn't get my license, and that was like really scary," she added.

Division Chief of Pediatric Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Dr. Floyd Livingston, says lack of sleep in teens is causing more car accidents, more mental health problems like depression and poorer performance in school.

"Teenagers have less school performance, worse school performance, and are complaining more sleepiness than they've had in the past decade or more," he explained.

To help teens get a better night's rest, have them set a schedule. They should go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. If they want to nap during the day, make sure naps don't last more than 30 minutes. And have them turn off and put away all electronics at least an hour before bed.

"The bedroom is just for sleep, so we try to take out all the electronics out the bedroom," Livingston said.

Now, McKenzie's on a schedule and puts away all of her electronics before bed.

"Sleep is more important," she said.

Experts say teens need about eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. A National Sleep Foundation poll revealed most parents think their kids sleep enough, but 59 percent of middle school children and 87 percent of high school teens do not.