TEENS, TEENAGERS & SLEEP
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” (John Steinbeck)
This is widely known under the expression: “Sleep on it”.
Why do we say that? What does it really mean? And how is that relevant for our teens and teenagers in particular?
From a scientific perspective, during sleep, our brains are processing all the information from the day. It’s sorting, reorganising, repairing, restoring the energy, releasing hormones and proteins, cataloguing, and making sense of everything that we saw, heard, tasted, smelled, touched plus processing all the emotions attached to those daily events. It stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste, amongst many other aspects.
So, you can get a very clear idea how busy actually our brains are during sleep. And especially during the REM period of our sleep.
Now this is becoming even more interesting and important when it comes to our lovely teens and teenagers.
As I mentioned in the previous blog entry “Sleepy Saturdays” series, “Are you getting enough sleep”, our kids need more sleep time than we adults do. You can read the entire article HERE.
And you can see below the ideal amount of time their body and mind require in order for them to wake up being ready to tackle the day ahead.
· School age (6-10 years) need 9-12 hours
· Adolescents (11-18 years) need 8-10 hours
But in reality, how many of our children are getting enough sleep?
Teens and teenagers, in particular, may not get the amount of sleep they need because of their busy schedules (with school and after school activities) and night-owl sleeping patterns.
And 8 hours of sleep for them is the minimum recommendation, they are barely passing. It's even more concerning, if their sleep is restless and interrupted on a regular basis.
The lack of sleep is affecting our teenagers’ brains in very similar ways to the adult brain, but more so. Chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents diminishes their brain’s ability to learn new information, to make decisions, to deal with their emotions, to express their creativity and can lead to emotional issues like depression and aggression.
“Dear mind please stop thinking so much at night, I need to sleep.”
Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash
When we ask our teens and teenagers to get up and out of bed before they finished completing their natural sleep cycle, we are actually asking them to fight against their own body.
During puberty, our kids experience a delay in sleep patterns, their bodies start to feel tired approximately 2 hours later than an adult starts to experience those feelings of sleepiness, according to Dr. Wendy Troxel, a Senior Behavioural and Social Scientist at RAND and Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. You can watch her powerful TED Talk HERE, to have more insight about how important sleep is for our children, especially teens and teenagers.
Being tired or sleep deprived affects our kid’s grades, mood, and health no matter their age. It becomes harder for them to have the energy they need in order to be physically active.
In addition, if they don't get enough sleep, they could go looking for that energy from unhealthy snacks and drinks.
There are many other factors that affect a teenager’s sleep. These can include busy school schedules, social activities, hormones, Snapchat, academic demands, sports, internet, television, part-time employment (in some cases), and the heavy use of mobile phone at night, peers and parental influence and socioeconomic status.
These major changes to patterns of sleep, when it comes to adolescents, lead to many behavioural sleep problems like Delayed Sleep-phase Syndrome, difficulties in falling asleep (insomnia), excessive daytime sleepiness, poor academic performance. Sleep deprivation in adolescents also causes obesity and other cardio-metabolic abnormalities.
If your teen or teenager is very busy with homework and activities to get enough sleep, it may be a good time to consider cutting back on their schedule.
And if you are thinking that they can pay that sleep debt over the weekend by sleeping in, please consider an important aspect: changing the sleeping pattern messes up your kid body’s internal clock. Your child can experience a kind of “jet lag” when they try to wake up early on Monday morning after sleeping in during the weekend.
It’s highly recommended to stick close to the same sleep schedule all week long. And if it is really necessary to “sleep in”, please limit that to one hour or until 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Another very important aspect, for any age, is to keep TVs, computers, tablets, phones out of the bedroom. It’s recommended to stop watching any television or use any technology at least 30 min before bedtime, to help them transition to sleep naturally. Ideally 2 hours before going to bed. The screening time before bed affects the body’s natural ability to unwind and prepare for rest/sleep. It sends a misleading signal to the brain that is not bedtime yet, that it's still time to be awake and alert.
Personally, I am a big fan of power naps. And while most kids these days don’t need regular naps after about age 5, a power nap can do wonders at any age.
But is important to remember to keep them up to 30 minutes. A longer time can make kids feeling groggy and they will find it harder to sleep at night. Also, make sure that the nap time is not too close to bedtime.
However, if your child is really sleepy, it’s recommended to just try to get them to bed a little earlier.
Another guidance comes related to homework. Please avoid allowing your kids to do the homework in bed, as it will create a connection in their brains between the stress generated by the maths and vocabulary problems and their place for sleep and rest. And the result will be that they struggle to sleep because going to bed reminds them of that stress. Their bed must be a sacred place for relaxation and rest.
If for us as adults is recommended to pay close attention to how much caffeine or energy drinks we consume, for our kids the recommendation is becoming a very strong suggestion to limit as much as possible the intake of soda or energy drinks, or any other products that contain caffeine. Instead offer your kids water.
Studies show that caffeine can disrupt your kids’ focus in school. It can also increase their heart rate and give them headaches and stomach-aches. Plus, many caffeinated drinks are loaded with sugar, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. If your child asks you for caffeinated drinks for energy, encourage them to get more sleep instead.
A teen's body clock resets at puberty. They're most alert in the evenings and usually can’t fall asleep until at least 11 p.m. And to help them get to sleep as soon as possible, suggest a bedtime ritual. A calming routine like brushing their teeth, turning lights down, and reading can bring on that sleepy feeling.
Sleep deprived teens and teenagers has become a real problem in our society today, especially in well developed countries where the access to the latest tech is so easy and we introduce it to our children very early in their lives, so that we, as parents, can cope with the hustling of everyday life.
But the consequence of this behaviour is beyond our imagination.
To have a glimpse of the future, all we need to do is to look at our children.
If we deprive them, at any age, pre-school, school age, adolescents of their invaluable sleep, we are actually deprive them of their dreams, their sanity, their own future.
So, please start introducing tonight some healthy sleeping habits, if you know your child is struggling to sleep.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
To find out more about how important sleep is for our teens and teenagers, you can read more by following these links:
And if you enjoy quizzes, you can find one below about raising fit kids.
If you have any questions or comments, please put them below. And if you would like to discuss any personal issues or concerns you might have regarding your child's sleep, please send me a private message or email.
Wishing you a wonderful good night sleep, beautiful iDreamer!
Mariana - Clinical Hypnotherapist & Dream Seer by birth