Teenagers And Sleep Problems: How Can Parents Help Teens Get Better Sleep? Update 05/2024

The years spent in adolescence are formative. The brain and body undergo major changes as we enter adulthood, and these changes have a substantial impact on our emotions, personality, social and family life, and academic performance.
To help kids perform at their best, sleep is vital at this time. According to studies, many teenagers are getting less sleep than they need.
A night’s sleep for teens should be between eight and ten hours, say the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Teenagers who get the necessary amount of sleep each night are better able to maintain their physical, mental, and academic health.
Teens, on the other hand, suffer a slew of difficulties when it comes to getting enough restorative sleep. Acknowledging these issues aids teenagers and their parents in devising a strategy to ensure that teenagers get enough sleep.

Why Is Sleep Important For Teens?

Everyone, regardless of age, needs a certain amount of sleep. However, the fundamental growth of the mind, body, social interactions, and emotions of teenagers necessitates enough sleep.

Thinking and Academic Achievement

A good night’s sleep is good for the brain in that it improves concentration, recall, and analytical thinking. As a result, one’s ability to focus on and remember the most critical details improves. Creative thought can be sparked by a good night’s sleep. Teens need plenty of sleep if they are to succeed in school, learn an instrument, or land a job.
It’s not hard to see why kids who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to tiredness and lack of focus, which can have a negative effect on their academic performance.

Emotional Health

Sleep deprivation is well-known to cause anger and excessive emotional responses in many people. For teenagers who are adjusting to increasing freedom, responsibility, and new social contacts, the long-term implications can be even more severe.

Interpersonal conflict and more severe mental health problems are all made more likely by sleep deprivation, which can impair emotional development.

Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder have all been linked to sleep deprivation in adolescents, and sleep deprivation in teens can raise the likelihood of suicide. Adolescents’ ability to sleep better has the potential to help prevent or at least lessen the symptoms of mental health issues.

Physical Health and Development

Almost every system in the body benefits from adequate sleep. Immunity and hormone regulation are improved, as is muscle and tissue healing.

Adolescence is a time of rapid physical and cognitive growth, which can be hampered by sleep deprivation. Researchers have revealed that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep have a shaky metabolic profile that puts them at greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the long run.

Decision-Making and Risky Behavior

If you don’t get enough sleep, your frontal lobe, which is responsible for controlling your impulses, may not develop properly. Studies have indicated that kids who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to engage in high-risk activities such as texting while driving, riding their bicycles without helmets, and neglecting to use a seatbelt. This is not surprising. Teens with sleep deprivation are more prone to engage in dangerous behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol, smoking, having sex with a partner, fighting, or carrying a weapon.

A teen’s social and academic life can be significantly harmed by behavioral issues, which can manifest themselves in a variety of ways.

Accidents and Injuries

Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to accidents and even death. Drowsy driving is a specific cause for concern because of the increased likelihood of an accident. There is evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation has a comparable impact on reaction speed as heavy drinking. The dangers of sleepy driving are exacerbated in teens because of their inexperience behind the wheel and their tendency to become distracted while driving.

Are Teens in America Getting Enough Sleep?

Many teenagers in the United States are falling short of the required 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, according to the vast majority of studies. At least 45 percent of teenagers reported sleeping less than eight hours per night in a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2006.

It’s possible that things are going to grow worse before they get better. Nearly 69% of high school students, according to four nationwide polls done between 2007 and 2013, slept for seven hours or less per night. 23.8 percent of teens are estimated to suffer from sleeplessness.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from insufficient slumber among teenagers. More sleep is reported by teenagers who are in their late teens and early twenties than those who are in their early twenties. Research shows that youth who identify as African-American, Asian, or multiracial had the highest rates of sleeping less than eight hours each night.

Why Is It Hard for Teens To Get Good Sleep?

Sleep deprivation isn’t just a problem for teenagers. This difficulty is caused by a variety of circumstances, and these factors can differ from teen to teen.

Delayed Sleep Schedule and School Start Times

Being an “owl” during adolescence is common, with many adolescents preferring to stay up late and sleep in until the wee hours of the morning. Some experts have suggested that teens’ circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle may be affected by this biological drive.

Due to their slower sleep drive, teenagers don’t become weary until much later in the evening. As a second effect, the body takes longer to begin manufacturing sleep-promoting melatonin.

In most school districts, teens are forced to wake up considerably earlier in the morning if they are permitted to sleep on their own schedule, which would allow them to sleep from 11 p.m. or midnight until 8 or 9 am. Many teenagers can’t get to sleep early enough to receive eight hours or more of sleep and still make it to school on time because of the biological delay in their sleep-wake cycle.

The lack of sleep that many teenagers get during the week causes them to want to make up for a lost time by sleeping in on the weekends. However, this can lead to an even worse sleep schedule and less consistent sleep patterns.

Time Pressure

Teenagers frequently have a lot on their plates. Schoolwork, jobs, errands around the house, social activities, volunteer work, and participation in sports are just a few of the things that can take up their time and attention.

Many teenagers don’t get enough sleep because they’re trying to cram too much into their days. Staying up late to accomplish homework during the week or spending time with friends on weekends can reinforce a night owl lifestyle for certain students.

The overwhelming pressure to achieve while juggling so many obligations can be exhausting, and exhaustion is known to exacerbate sleep disorders like insomnia.

Use of Electronic Devices

A 2014 Sleep in America Poll found that at least 89% of youth kept at least one electronic gadget in their bedroom at night, including smartphones and tablets.

Screen time late at night can cause sleep issues. Incoming notifications from these gadgets can disturb sleep and keep teens’ brains awake. A lack of melatonin production may also be a result of cell phone light exposure.

Sleep Disorders

Some teenagers have trouble sleeping because they have an underlying sleep condition. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes frequent pauses in breathing during sleep in adolescents. OSA is a common cause of disturbed sleep patterns and drowsiness during the day.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and narcolepsy (an illness that affects the sleep-wake cycle) are among the sleep disorders that can affect youth, albeit they are less prevalent.

Mental Health Problems

Depression and anxiety can have a negative impact on both adolescents’ and adults’ ability to get a good night’s sleep. Both sleep deprivation and mental distress can be caused by insufficient sleep, which has a bidirectional effect on both.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), can make it difficult for adolescents to get a good night’s sleep. In addition, it is possible that sleep deprivation is a factor in the severity of these disorders.

How Can Teens Get Better Sleep?

It’s important for sleep-deprived teens to talk to their doctor about the impact their lack of sleep is having on their day-to-day activities. With their pediatrician’s help, the child’s condition can be properly diagnosed and treated.

In certain situations, medication may be necessary to address sleep disorders, however, this is not the case in the vast majority of cases.

It’s a good idea for teenagers to take stock of their sleep hygiene and make adjustments as needed. Tips to help you get a good night’s sleep include:

  • Including eight hours of sleep in your daily plan and sticking to it weekdays and weekends alike can help you feel more rested.
  • Preparing for bed, in the same way, each night will help you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoiding coffee and energy beverages, especially in the afternoon and at night, is a good rule of thumb.
  • Avoid checking electronic gadgets in the middle of the night by putting them away at least 30 minutes before going to bed and setting them to silent mode.
  • Set up your bed with the ideal mattress for your body type. Remember to bring along a decent pillow.
    It’s important to have a cold, dark, and quiet space in your home.

Cognitive-behavioral treatment for insomnia (CBT-I), a talk therapy for sleep difficulties that have been shown to be successful in adults and may be beneficial to teens, may incorporate sleep hygiene improvements. In CBT-I, negative sleep thoughts and ideas are reshaped and practical efforts are taken to improve sleep habits.

How Can Parents Help Teens Get Better Sleep?

First, question your adolescent children about their sleeping habits, because polls show that many parents don’t even know their children are suffering sleep difficulties.

As a parent, you can urge your teen to consult a doctor and work with them to improve their sleep habits at the same time. According to several studies, kids who have their parents set a regular bedtime to tend to sleep better and have less fatigue during the day.

Parents can also advocate for later school start times by contacting their local education board. When it comes to attendance and academic achievement, many school systems have found that delaying the start of the school day is a successful strategy.

Teens and parents can work together to prevent schedule conflicts and responsibilities that cause stress and interfere with getting enough rest.

Preventing sleep deprivation in teenagers – tips for parents

When it comes to nighttime, don’t argue with your teen! Instead, talk to them about it. As a team, come up with ideas to help them obtain more sleep at night. Here are some ideas:

  • On the weekends, allow your child to sleep in.
  • Every Sunday, set an example by going to bed early. Having a late night on Sunday and waking up early on Monday will make your child tired for school.
  • As a family, determine the right time restrictions for any stimulating activity, such as homework or watching television. Encourage your child to read as a way to wind down at night.
  • Your youngster should avoid early morning appointments, classes, or training sessions if feasible.
  • Your adolescent can benefit from some assistance in planning their after-school activities so that they have more time to relax and sleep.
  • Look into the weekly calendar of your adolescent jointly to see whether they have taken on too many commitments. If this is the case, give them some guidance on how to reduce their workload.
  • To assist replenish their batteries, encourage your teen to take an afternoon sleep after school if they can.
  • Set a new sleep schedule for your adolescent together. It’s a good idea to start by talking to your doctor.

Top sleep tips for teenagers

Sleeping in late and staying up late the next day might be challenging for teenagers because of their adolescent brains. Changing your internal clock is possible, but the process is lengthy. Here are some ideas:

  • Take a bath and sip a cup of hot milk before going to sleep, or try meditation or mindfulness activities to help you wind down. It’s possible that doing some gentle yoga will be beneficial.
  • For at least an hour before going to bed, stay away from electronic devices with screens, such as laptops, TVs, and smartphones, as well as loud music and other activities that stimulate the mind.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks, at night.
  • Keep your bedroom at night as dim as possible. When you open your eyes, the light you see sets the sleep-wake cycle in your brain. Avoid watching television or using a smartphone shortly before going to bed. Your brain needs to be awakened by a bright light in the early morning.
  • For at least four weeks, perform the same evening ritual each night to help your brain link it with sleep.
  • After four weeks, begin your bedtime ritual 10 minutes earlier than usual. Do this for a week and see what happens.
  • Every week, add 10 minutes to your bedtime until you reach your goal.
  • Increase your physical activity during the day to help you sleep better at night.
  • Make your bedroom a relaxing place to sleep.
  • Set a consistent waking time.
  • Weekends are the worst times to stay up late. Your hard work will be undone if you stay up late.
  • Keep in mind that even an extra 30 minutes of sleep per night can make a significant effect. However, it may take up to six weeks for you to see the benefits of obtaining more sleep.

Teenage sleep deprivation – other issues to consider

If you’re still having trouble sleeping despite your best efforts, here are some suggestions:

  • Take a look at your sleeping habits. For example, a noisy bedroom, a bumpy mattress, or the habit of lying awake and fretting could be interfering with your quality of sleep.
  • Getting ready for sleep may require mastering a relaxation technique.
  • After dinner, stay away from anything with caffeine in it. This includes, but is not limited to, coffee, tea, cola, and, of course, candy.
  • Avoid using recreational substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, as they can disrupt your sleep and lead you to wake up feeling groggy and exhausted.
  • If self-help tactics don’t help you sleep more at night, see your doctor.

Why Teens Need More Sleep Than Younger Kids

So, how much shut-eye should you get? There is an hour or two more sleep time needed by teens than there was when they were 10 years old, according to physician Michael Crocetti, M.D., M.P.H. of Johns Hopkins. Why? According to Crocetti, “teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation. An extra hour of sleep is beneficial for a child’s growing brain and body. This can help keep adolescents from developing significant problems like depression or substance abuse (for more information, see “The Price of Sleep Deprivation in Teens” further below).

Teenagers and Sleep: Help Them Get What They Need

Both Sterni and Crocetti advise parents to pay attention to their children’s sleep habits as they get older. Begin by setting an example of good sleep hygiene by maintaining a regular sleep pattern, reducing evening coffee consumption, and engaging in regular physical activity. They also provide these tried-and-true suggestions for dealing with teenagers.

Schedule an appointment. When it comes to educating teenagers on how much sleep they need, recommending healthy sleep habits, and screening for common teen sleep disorders, pediatricians can do it all.

Start the day with a smile. Breakfast eaten in the fresh air or in front of a bright window can help teens better regulate their circadian rhythms, making it simpler for them to wake up and go to sleep in the morning.

Encourage a connection between yourself and others. When your teen is well-rested, inquire about how he felt throughout a test or a sports game that day. Help him recognize how much sleep he needs to improve his attitude and how much sleep he needs to get.

Car privileges and sound sleep should be linked. Teens who are sleep-deprived are more likely to be involved in mishaps. In the morning, if my adolescent son doesn’t get enough sleep, I won’t let him drive him to school,” Crocetti explains.

Assist teenagers in revising their daily plans. Help your kid locate an earlier time to begin schoolwork if he usually does it after evening activities. Having a hectic schedule may necessitate cutting back.

Allow for naps in the afternoon. Before supper, tired teens may benefit from a 30-45-minute sleep. Sleeping in, which can mess with a teen’s sleep cycle, is not the best solution for sleep deprivation.

Ban electronic devices in the room. At night, youths are exposed to a light that suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep.

Schools should be encouraged to start later in the day to allow more time for students to be ready for class. At 8:30 am, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools begin their day. This is something you should bring up with the local school board.

Watch the season change. Sleeping irregularly throughout the summer is common among teenagers. To be on the safe side, Stern suggests that students adhere to the same sleep routine they used during the school year. School-year start-up concerns for teens whose schedules change dramatically include moodiness and excessive daytime sleepiness, which can make it difficult for them to get back into a regular sleep routine. In order to get their sleep routine back on track in September, those who have experienced severe disruptions may need to consult with a sleep professional.

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