Teens need to get more sleep

Recent research on topics as wide ranging as mental health and how our bodies store fat, is adding to evidence that illustrates how much sleep deprivation impacts our individual and collective health. On the other hand, getting adequate sleep has been shown to helps strengthen our immune system and is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

According to child health experts pre-teens need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers should be getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep.

Despite these recommendations, a 2018 study revealed that 73 percent of high school students fail to meet this sleep target. And, the consequences of sleep deprivation are quite evident among many teens. These include increased moodiness, drowsiness, disinterest in activities that used to interest them, failing grades, and depression-like symptoms. In extreme cases, it could lead to thoughts of self-harm.

One reason for sleep deprivation among teens that has received a lot of attention in recent years is the difference in sleep cycles of teens. Hormones in the body undergo rapid change during puberty and, among other things, this leads to a delayed phase change in sleep, with their body telling them to stay up later at night and wake up later in the morning.

When your teen child is demanding to stay up late or dragging the covers over their heads when it is time to wake up in the mornings, it is not because they are intentionally being defiant, it could be that they are just following their body’s changed sleep cycle. Additional barriers to sleep among teenagers include increased use of digital devices immediately before bed time; heavy homework; caffeine infused drinks and anxiety.

The challenge is that teenagers are often required to keep a schedule that does not match their internal clock. School schedules often contribute to teenagers having to get up earlier than their bodies naturally want them to. And, parents sending teens to bed earlier so that they can wake up earlier is also not an effective strategy either.

Another contributing factor to sleep deprivation is that teens tend to model their behaviour after that of their parents. For this reason, doctors say that parents should apply the same rules to themselves as their teens when it comes to sleep habits.

Knowing that sleep deprivation could be a ‘hormone thing’, what can parents do to help their sleep deprived teen child? Doctors suggest that parents could start by taking a more active role in the teen’s life, involving in their interests and emphasizing the importance of adequate sleep to their other interests.

Other steps to encourage more sleep time include shutting off electronic devices by 10pm, limiting caffeine infused drinks , ensuring efficient homework practices and by parents modeling good sleep behavior