Sleep and mental health go hand in hand, especially when it comes to the mental and physical well-being of teenagers. Unfortunately, not enough teens across the country are getting the sleep they need. It’s recommended that teens get nine hours of restful sleep each night, but between 60% to 70% of teenagers in the United States aren’t able to get that much.
It’s often easy to write off teenage moodiness or other behaviors as a natural part of adolescence. Whether they have angst, seem depressed, or decide to sleep all day when they can, we tend to believe those are typical actions for a teenager. Sometimes, that’s the case. After all, the teenage years bring a lot of changes, hormonal shifts, relationship/friendship issues, and so on.
But it’s important to be aware of the symptoms associated with sleep deprivation in teenagers. Things like shifts in mood, anxiety, and other impulsive behaviors aren’t always normal. Understanding how a lack of sleep can affect teens is important so you can help to make sure they’re getting the rest the mind and body need on a regular basis.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation in Teens?
Why aren’t some teens getting the sleep they need? One of the biggest issues is that their biological sleep patterns don’t always make it easy. It’s not uncommon for most teenagers to find it difficult to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. Unfortunately, if they have an alarm to get them up for school too early, they’re losing a few hours of sleep that could be necessary to their overall health.
Additionally, teenagers tend to create their own abnormal sleep patterns by shifting their schedules on a regular basis. They might go to bed at an earlier time on school nights, but when the weekend rolls around, it’s more likely that they will stay up later. This can make it difficult for them to get back into the habit of going to bed earlier during the week.
Finally, teens are just as susceptible to treatable sleep disorders as adults. Conditions such as insomnia or sleep anxiety can keep them awake for hours. Sleep anxiety is a vicious cycle: When someone is anxious to go to bed, it will affect the ability to sleep, and that lack of sleep causes a person to become even more anxious. Other mental health conditions, like depression or bipolar disorder, can also have an effect on the quality of sleep a teenager is getting each night.
What Are the Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep?
There are a variety of different side effects and risks to consider from not getting enough sleep. For teenagers, these risks can be even greater. A lack of sleep slows down their ability to learn. They might have a hard time retaining information and solving problems. This makes it easy to forget things like homework, the information they’ve studied, or even simple things like names or locations.
Not getting enough sleep might also cause teens to become a danger to themselves and others on the road. Driving while you’re tired can be compared to drunk driving. Reaction time is slowed, so it’s not as easy to see pedestrians or stop in time. It’s also not uncommon to get drowsy or fall asleep at the wheel. Teenagers who have only recently gotten their driver’s license can’t afford to be distracted on the road.
A lack of sleep can lead to a lack of control. Teenagers already dealing with things like hormonal changes and other stressors might find that they’re more irritable when they are tired. That can lead to bouts of aggression and anger. Teens who don’t get enough sleep can even lash out at friends, family members, or teachers. That could end up getting them in a lot of trouble and could jeopardize relationships — and potentially their future. Further, because regular, consistent sleep is necessary for staying organized at college, failing to adhere to an appropriate sleep schedule now may hinder their success in their postsecondary education.
How Teenagers Can Get More Sleep
Thankfully, there are things teens can do to get a more restful night’s sleep. Developing a sleep routine is important for everyone, but it can be vital for teenagers. Picking a set time each night to go to bed, and sticking to that whether it’s a weeknight or weekend can help to make that routine more useful. Avoiding technology before bed can also make it easier to fall asleep. As tempting as it is for many teens to check Instagram or text their friends before bed, their smartphone may actually be a reason they can’t fall asleep.
Another tip is cutting down on caffeine and sugar. Many teenagers use caffeine or sugary drinks as a way to keep up their energy throughout the day. But these stimulants can cause the body to be too wound up at night to fully relax. If teens stop drinking caffeine and eating excessive sugar in the early afternoon each day, they won’t be as “wound up” at night. Additionally, focusing on eating healthy foods throughout the day, including whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, can have a major impact. You might be surprised how much diet can affect quality of sleep.
Finally, teens can benefit by creating an ideal sleep space for themselves. Their bed should be associated with relaxation and rest. If falling asleep is still an issue, things like natural supplements can also help. Sometimes, sleep disorders like insomnia or restless leg syndrome can be helped with medical care. The bottom line? Teenagers need enough sleep to be able to get through their daily routine and to keep themselves (and others) safe. If you’re a teen who isn’t getting enough sleep or a parent who knows your teenager needs more rest, follow some of these suggestions to start taking sleep more seriously.
Author Bio: Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book. Chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.
Image Source: Pixabay
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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