Adolescents should be getting 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep per night, however, studies have shown that they need approximately 9 ¼ hours. Most of the time, they aren’t getting nearly enough rest to properly function throughout the day. Most adolescents may only be getting between 7 and 7 ¼ hours of sleep per night. As a result of this lack of snoozing, their mood, behavior, cognitive ability, academic performance and even their driving can be deeply affected.
There are many reasons why your teenager might not be getting enough sleep. Scientists have linked it to their biological clocks shifting forward during adolescence. So rather than feeling sleepy at night, they will actually become more alert and may have a tough time settling down and closing their eyes. As a result, in the morning they may feel more groggy because of their elevated melatonin levels.
It’s tough to negotiate with a teenager, which is why it’s good to know why they aren’t sleeping, and what can be done to help. Remember, it’s not always their fault, and a lot of it has to do with biology.
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What Causes Teens To Lose Sleep?
There are actually quite a few things that can keep your teenager from sleeping at night. As stated above, biology has a lot to do with it. Hormones, such as melatonin, are shifting and causing them to stay awake longer and not want to get up the next day. However, shifting hormones aren’t completely to blame.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social media apps that teens are using have been one of the culprits of late night phone and computer use. But these aren’t the only factors that are contributing to sleep loss. It can also be the actual lights coming from the screens. There is a glow that is emitted from our screens called “blue light”. This has a certain frequency that hits the receptors in our eyes, signaling the brain to hold off on the melatonin production. It’s always recommended to stop looking at screens between an hour and an hour and a half before bedtime.
Soccer, karate, scouts and whatever other club your child is in can really take a toll on their sleep habits. Teens who are involved in a lot of extracurricular activities may have a very small window for sleep. Many of us have the mindset that our kids should be well-rounded, but there are other ways to do that rather than putting them in too many extra-curricular activites. Space them out and only do one or two things at a time, rather than overloading their schedule.
Studies have shown that 35 percent of teenagers have reported stress as a cause for their sleepless nights. Those who are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep have more of an issue with stress than those who sleep for the right amount of time. Those who slept less than 8 hours per night reported feeling irritable, nervous or anxious, depressed or sad and overwhelmed. There are plenty of things that can stress a teenager out such as testing, homework, relationships and general schooling. It’s best to talk to them about why they’re feeling stressed to try and alleviate the issue, before it starts to cause problems with their health.
Teens And Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation really takes a devastating toll on the brain and body of a teenager. During the adolescent years, sleep is detrimental. Over 90 percent of American high schoolers are lacking the proper amount of sleep needed to function to the full extent of their abilities. Studies have shown that only 9 percent of students are meeting that 9 to 9 ½ hour window for sleep. Even more alarming is the fact that 20 percent of them are getting less than five hours of sleep per night.
Over a certain period of time, physical and mental health risks connected to sleep deprivation will start to kick in. These are some of the factors that you should be on the lookout for.
— Medication Dependence
One of the first things that a lot of parents want to do is get their teen on medications to help them sleep more at night. What they don’t know is that it’s actually doing more damage than good. One study showed that adolescents who take prescription sleep aids were more likely to abuse those medications than those who don’t take them.
Rather than throwing pills at a teenager who just needs to figure out their body, try some natural remedies. A very common way to get them settled down earlier would be to increase their melatonin intake. This is meant to reset the internal clock in your body. It’s a natural hormone in the body, so it’s not harmful. All they have to do is take the preferred dosage before bed and relax. It’s not meant to keep them asleep throughout the night, however, it does help them fall asleep quicker. It’s definitely the healthier and safer alternative to sleeping pills.
— Mental Health Issues
Sleep deprivation and depression is a very common occurrence when it comes to teenagers. In a study done in 2010, it showed that teens who slept only an average of six hours per night were three times more likely to suffer from depression. Each hour of sleep that your child misses, it’s linked to a 38 percent increase of feeling hopeless or sad. Even more alarming is the fact that there was a 58 percent increase in attempted suicides.
In this case, it would be best for the parent’s to intervene in their child’s bedtime routine. You should set early bedtimes because this simple fix could make a huge difference in their mood. They’ll get the adequate sleep that they need and they will be significantly less likely to suffer from depression or have thoughts of suicide.
— Substance Abuse & Obesity
Recent research has shown that there is an increased depression, obesity, car accidents, and poor academic performance due to the disruption of a teenagers natural sleep cycle. In high school students, those who are getting less than 8 hours of sleep as opposed to those getting 8 hours or more of sleep were significantly more likely to suffer from some kind of substance abuse. Current statistics goes as follows:
- Tobacco use – 22% vs. 15%
- Alcohol use – 46% vs. 34%
- Marijuana use – 23% vs. 17%
- Illicit drug use – 16% vs. 11%
It would appear that the link between sleep loss and substance abuse can go two ways in that substance abuse can lead to sleep loss and sleep loss can significantly increase the risk of such abuse because it interferes with brain function.
Loss of sleep can also have a negative effect on an adolescents physical health in that it can be linked to diabetes and obesity. Those who fail to get adequate sleep could be at a higher risk for diabetes and those who are already obese can also have this risk increased. For teens who already suffer from such diseases, it can exacerbate the issue. Research has shown that adolescents with Type 1 diabetes can have more trouble falling asleep, which results in a higher difficulty for regulating blood sugar and controlling their behavior.
— Behavioral And Learning Issues
One in every four teenagers go to bed after 11:30 p.m. on school nights. Those who do this have a tendency to perform poorly at school and experience more emotional distress. The ones who do not get enough sleep are usually inattentive, hyper, oppositional and impulsive.
Adequate rest is crucial to memory, emotion regulation and learning. Why is this? It’s simply because sleep supports brain processes. At night, the brain is responsible for consolidating information that is stored during the day and reviewing it, making it easier to retrieve later.
Sleep paralysis may sound like a great thing, you know, you’re so sleepy that your body paralyzes itself, leading to even more sleep. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Sleep paralysis is actually a problem with the regulation of REM sleep. During REM, our body is paralyzed so that we can’t act out the dreams that we are having. This type of muscle relaxation is called atonia and it can happen while you are awake. So, even if you’re conscious, you’re unable to move.
One of the main triggers of such phenomenon is sleep deprivation and stress. It’s clear that teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep and may be stressed from school or their overall life and emotional well being. Many people will start to experience this paralysis when their sleep schedule is disrupted.
— Psychiatric Issues
For those who suffer from certain psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, there’s a strong association with sleep paralysis. As we’ve mentioned, sleep deprived teens are more likely to be depressed or have anxiety, making them higher risk for the paralysis. The use of alcohol can also be associated with this issues.
Helping Them Get Better Sleep
It may seem like an impossible feat, but it can be done. Studies have shown that instilling good sleep habits in young adults can help improve their health and academic performance. It can also help prevent them from turning to substance abuse. There are a few simple tips and tricks that you can start today to get them in a good routine.
1. Set A Sleep Schedule
Your teen should be going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Their sleep schedule should also ensure that they are getting the suggested amount of sleep. By doing this, their body is being conditioned to follow a regular pattern of sleep. This will allow their body’s natural clock to help maintain their sleep.
2. Give Them A Good Sleep Environment
Your child’s room should be dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. Studies have shown that sleeping in a cool room is the best way to sleep. Also, by cutting out light and noise, the disruptions can be a nuisance. The bedroom should also be a place for relaxation and not stress. If they’re uncomfortable, try putting them on a new mattress that’s better for their body. You may be surprised at how much an uncomfortable, unsupportive mattress can have an affect on somebody’s sleep.
3. Bedrooms Are For Sleep
Your teenagers bedroom should strictly be for sleep. You should not have any gaming systems, computers, phones or other gadgets in their room that could disrupt their sleeping habits. There should be nothing in the room that could negatively stimulate the brain and keeping them awake. Almost all teens have a phone or laptop that they use, so the best way to ensure that it’s not in the bedroom is to put it somewhere in another room each night or make sure they shut them off before bed.
4. No Caffeine
You should make sure that your child is eliminating the caffeine use early in the afternoon. It’s going to be tough to monitor what they drink while they’re in school, but once they are home, don’t give them caffeine. This is a stimulant and it will end up keeping your child awake longer than what they should be.
The link between teens and sleeping is rather alarming if you think about it. There are many things that keep them from sleeping at night, all of which can probably be eliminated by a healthy sleep schedule and some tweaking of rules. It’s tough to get a teenager to sleep, trust me, I used to be one. I never wanted to sleep and I regret it to this day. Ensure that they are in a comfortable room, keep them as stress free as you possibly can and talk to their doctor if you think there is something really wrong. They need their sleep to perform to the best of their abilities, and they can only achieve this if you enforce healthy rules and habits.