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Teenagers and sleep

If you have a teenager living in your house, you may be wondering why they always seem so tired. Like many teens, yours may sleep through the alarm during the week and stay in bed till eleven on the weekends. And when they do get out of bed, they walk around like zombies until the afternoon when they’re suddenly awake again and not interested in going to bed until midnight. 

However, you’ll probably be pleased to know this behaviour isn’t just your teenager being a rebel; sometimes it may have a physical cause1. While understanding how, when and why teenagers sleep is quite a complex challenge, there are ways you can help your teen sleep better. Read our tips and advice below and, hopefully, you can help your teen get a good night’s sleep, starting today!

Five Quick Facts on Teenagers and Sleep

  1. Even 30 minutes of extra sleep each night can make a difference2.
  2. Sleep deprivation can cause reduced academic performance at school2.
  3. Sleepy teenagers are more easily injured, especially in traffic accidents2.
  4. Studies show that teenagers' sleep patterns differ from those of adults or younger children3.
  5. The earlier parents help their teens start good sleep patterns, the easier it is to sustain during the teen years4.

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO TEENAGERS NEED?

Research has shown that the developing brain of a teenager needs between nine and ten hours of sleep every night2. If your teenager doesn’t get enough sleep, the effects may include: 

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Falling asleep during class or at work
  • Shortened attention span
  • Memory impairment
  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor decision making
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Moodiness and aggression
  • Eating sweet food for a ‘sugar rush’
  • Depression
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Possible dependence on recreational drugs, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
  • Slower physical reflexes
  • Clumsiness, which may result in physical injuries
  • Reduced sporting performance
  • Reduced academic performance
  • Increased number of ‘sick days’ from school or work
  • Truancy
  • Acne and other skin problems
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Increased illness
  • Falling asleep while driving

Why your teenager may not be getting enough sleep

There are many reasons why your teenager may not be getting enough sleep. Some experts3 say that during the teen years the body's circadian rhythm (a bit like an internal biological clock) is temporarily reset; which makes teenagers fall asleep later and wake up later. This change may be because the melatonin, a brain hormone, is produced later at night for teens than for anyone else. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.

Another reason teenagers don’t get enough sleep is that they’re actually quite busy with school, homework, part-time jobs, relationships, sport, extra-curricular activities and friendships. With all this going on, it seems many secondary school students don’t get to sleep until 11pm or later. 

And yet another reason could be that teenagers simply like staying awake at night as it’s one of the few times they have to themselves. Below we look at a few more reasons why your teenager might be walking around like a zombie.

10 REASONS WHY SOME TEENAGERS DON'T GET ENOUGH SLEEP

  1. Hormones: As noted above, puberty hormones shift a teenager’s body clock forward by roughly one or two hours, which means they may get to sleep one to two hours later than everyone else. But, of course, while teenagers fall asleep later, they usually need to get up early for school or work. Over a few nights and weeks, this can become chronic sleep deprivation2.
  2. Lifestyle: Teenagers are often busy with homework, sport, part-time work and social commitments. All or some of these could affect your teenager’s sleeping time.
  3. Tech Stuff: Entertainment such as television, the Internet, mobile phones and computer gaming is probably high on the list of keeping teenagers out of bed.
  4. A lumpy mattress: Like everyone else, teenagers won’t get much sleep if they’re sleeping on a lumpy, unsupportive mattress.
  5. Sleep disorder: Sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnoea, could affect your teenager’s sleep.
  6. Medication: Some medications, including cold and allergy medications and prescription medications, can disrupt sleep.
  7. Insomnia: Your teenager may be experiencing the symptoms of insomnia.
  8. Depression: Some experts believe that sleeping too much or too little is a sign of depression1.
  9. Narcolepsy: Falling asleep suddenly during the day, usually for short periods of time, can be a sign of narcolepsy. Narcoleptic episodes can occur at any time, even in the middle of a conversation.
  10. Changes: The physiological, emotional and social changes of adolescence may also effect teenager’s sleep. 

Remember, if you're concerned about your teen being constantly tired during the day, contact their doctor. It’s important to determine if your teenager is depressed or has a sleep disorder, to ensure they receive the proper treatment.

10 ways to help your teens sleep more

Here are some tips you can try, to help your teen get a better sleep.

  1. Ensure your child is sleeping on a good quality mattress. Remember, if they’re over 165cms, a king single or queen size bed might be a better option as they’re 15cms longer than a single or double size bed.
  2. Allow your child to sleep in on the weekends. The condition is that they have an early night on Sunday!
  3. Work out time limits for any late night activity such as homework, television or computer games.
  4. Agree on restful activities during the evening, such as reading or drawing.
  5. If possible, avoid early morning appointments, classes or training sessions for your teenager.
  6. Help your teen schedule their after-school commitments to allow time for rest and sleep.
  7. Look at your teen’s weekly schedule to see if they’ve overcommitted. If they are, help them to trim activities.
  8. Encourage them to sleep even 30 minutes more each night as it can make a big difference.
  9. Explain to them that stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine may disrupt their sleep.
  10. Enrol them in a yoga class. Better still, go with them!

HERE ARE 10 TIPS FOR YOUR TEENAGER THAT MAY HELP THEM SLEEP BETTER

  1. Try to have a relaxing bedtime routine. For example, have a warm bath or do yoga before bed.
  2. Stay away from loud music, homework, computer games or any other activity that stimulates your brain before you go to bed.
  3. Keep your room dark at night.
  4. Try not to watch television in bed.
  5. If you can, start your bedtime routine a little earlier than usual. Even 30 minutes more sleep can make a difference to how you’ll feel in the morning.
  6. If there are no parties, try to get to bed at a reasonable hour on the weekend. And, if possible, go to bed early on Sunday to catch some extra zzzzs before the week rushes at you again.
  7. Try not to nap during the day as it can affect your evening sleep.
  8. Try to avoid stimulants such as recreational drugs, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
  9. If you snore at night and it keeps you awake, or you have a tingly sensation in your legs, talk to your parents or doctor about it as it may be sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome
  10. If you feel down, stressed or angry, speak to your parents or doctor as they’re there to help you.

And like, OMG. Why sleeping and devices don’t mix.

As you’ve just read, there’s no reason to LOL if your teenager isn’t getting enough sleep as it can affect many aspects of their life. By allowing them to have their computer, tablet or phone in their bedroom when they sleep, you may be making the problem worse. 

If their phone pings, rings, beeps or vibrates during the night, chances are it will wake them. And if they’re received a message or photo, they’ll probably want to respond. And this means their sleep has been disrupted and it may take hours for them to get back to sleep. And that’s if they’re not engaged in a message marathon.

And finally...

If you think your teenager isn’t getting enough sleep try and talk to them about it to see if you can help and to determine if it’s a serious problem. If it is, you might like to take your teenager to see a doctor or a sleep specialist.

If you’d like to discuss your teenager’s mattress needs to ensure they have the best one for their needs, visit your local Snooze store as we can help take the guesswork out of buying a mattress.

1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

2. Better Health

3. Kids Health

4. National Sleep Foundation

You may not be their BFF as a result, but by sticking to a cut-off curfew for electronic devices, your teenagers should enjoy the benefits of tech-free downtime and ping-free sleep. 


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