With many teens occupying bedrooms equipped to the rafters with technology, kids are getting less sleep than ever, according to the results of a 2006 poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

The poll found that only 20% of adolescents get the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights, and 45% sleep less than eight hours on school nights.

Attention-stealing devices like televisions, computers, MP3 players and cell phones take a good chunk of the blame. Check out these stats:

  • Watching television is the most popular activity (76%) for adolescents in the hour before bedtime, while surfing the internet/instant-messaging (44%) and talking on the phone (40%) are close behind.
  • Boys are more likely to play video games (40%) while girls are more likely to talk on the phone (51%) in that time.
  • Nearly all adolescents (97%) have at least one electronic item – such as a television, computer, phone or music device – in their bedroom. On average, 6th-graders have more than two of these items in their bedroom, while 12th-graders have about four.

Most sleep experts say it is unwise to use a computer immediately before bedtime because the bright computer screen may affect the biological rhythms that govern sleep. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology further suggests that performing “exciting” computer tasks, such as playing a video game, may actually suppress the production of melatonin, the so-called “sleep hormone.”

Sleep Deprivation is Dangerous

Lack of sleep is a dangerous thing, especially for adolescents whose brains are still developing. The poll found that adolescents who had four or more technological devices in their bedrooms were almost twice as likely to fall asleep in school and while doing homework.

But it’s not just schoolwork that suffers… many teens also reported “driving while drowsy.” According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 police-reported crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths each year.

Being groggy can also lead to behaviors that may be mistakenly attributed to or exacerbate existing learning disorders, like ADHD, or mental health problems, like depression.

What’s a Parent to Do?

Remember when they were babies and you had a nice, soothing ritual to help them relax from the day and get ready to fall to sleep? Well, teens need that kind of transition period as well. And they need a restful environment.

Take the television and the video game console(s) out of the room. Same goes for the computer, handheld gaming devices and cell phones. The portables have to charge sometime – why not try putting the charging devices in another room and make it a rule that after a certain time at night, about an hour before lights out, the devices have to be in their chargers.

Reserve that last hour before bed for nighttime rituals like showering, brushing teeth, putting away homework, making sure there are clean socks and underwear for the next day, etc. Pleasure reading can be a great way to unwind as well.

And be courteous – it’s hard for a kid to get to sleep when the TV in the living room is emitting tantalizing sounds of mayhem and music.