Are teenagers getting enough sleep? How would parents know if their teen is suffering the effects of sleep deprivation? A study released in the journal Sleep found that sleep-deprived teens were 24% more likely to suffer from depression and a fifth more to have suicidal thoughts. Given the pressures of succeeding at school and the stress of exams on today’s teens, it’s worth parents looking at their teenager’s nightly routine and taking steps to adjust their sleeping habits.
Sleep Deprivation is Serious
Research released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advises that teenagers need at least eight to nine hours of sleep on school nights. However, changes in society have brought about so many new distractions that teens are actually getting less sleep than ever before. Sleep deprivation hinders the brain’s ability to cope with daily stress, and affects judgement, concentration, and impulse control.
The Importance of Melatonin
Artificial lighting is the main culprit in disrupting sleep patterns. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin while light suppresses its activity. Exposure to excessive light in the evening or too little light during the day can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycles. Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the body’s sleep/wake patterns. Bright room lighting, televisions, PlayStations and PCs can all emit enough light to interfere with the natural production of melatonin.
Talk to Your Teen
Before instituting new rules which a teen might view as positively draconian, moms and dads should talk to their teen about the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Emphasize the importance of a relaxed, refreshed mind in order to perform properly at school and to study better. If a teen is being kept awake by personal issues or worries, talking about problems with parents will help the teen put things into perspective.
Diet & Exercise
Parents should encourage their teens to have at least an hour of exercise or activity per day to help with relaxation. This can be running, sports, gym or swimming. Drinking less caffeine (found in tea, coffee, and carbonated drinks) will also help because caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep and prevents deep sleep. Eating too much or too little near bedtime will also prevent sleep due to stomach discomfort. A teenager shouldn’t go to bed too full or hungry.
A Good Sleeping Environment
Encourage teens to have a regular bedtime routine. Going to bed at a reasonable hour should become a habit. The ideal environment is a dark, quiet, comfortable room, with a good mattress to ensure complete relaxation.
Cut Out Distractions
Distractions can include anything from leaving the television or PC on, using the cell phone or texting messages late at night. Parents may need to remove cell phones at night to prevent their teen staying awake to text friends.
The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated with regard to a teenager’s mental and emotional well-being and stability. Parents should take steps to institute new home rules to help their teens get their bodies back into regular sleep patterns. Parents can encourage good sleep patterns by discussing the benefits of sleep and new bedtime hours with their teen, encouraging them to exercise during the day, eliminating the distractions such as televisions and cell phones, and to make sure their teen’s bedroom is the optimum environment for a good night’s sleep.