Why Teens Actually Don’t Sleep Enough
It’s a common running joke in many households that the teenagers of the family tend to sleep a lot more than most. Lying in hours after everyone else is up and sometimes spending entire days in bed are not unheard of among the parents of adolescents. However, what if we were to tell you that teenagers on average sleep less than they ever have before, and the majority of them should be getting even more sleep in order to be healthier?
It all stems from the negative side effects of sleep deprivation, which can be particularly noticeable in teens. Obesity and cardiovascular problems have been linked to lack of sleep, plus tiredness makes it difficult to concentrate which increases the risk of accidents and affects performance at school, which can lead to serious consequences for your kids’ future education. Mood swings are also made more extreme by lack of sleep.
The chemicals involved with our sleep patterns can go some way to explaining teenage behaviour. Melatonin is produced when light dims at the end of the day, which tells the body it’s approaching the time to go to sleep. Artificial light from gadgets and screens can disrupt this process, giving us the illusion that we aren’t getting tired at night. This leads to young people staying up into the early hours of the morning, an increasingly common problem which causes issues when it’s time to get up the next day without getting at least eight or nine hours of good quality sleep.
Weekend sleep patterns with long lie-ins instead of going to bed early do nothing to help improve sleeping patterns. The overall result is that many teenagers develop DSPS, or delayed sleep phase syndrome. This is when the body clock is shifted to the point that it doesn’t synchronise with what it should naturally be according to the day and night cycle. It’s actually possible to treat the condition by tricking the body into adjusting its clock back to where it should be, for example being exposed to a bright light for a period of time at the start of the day, followed by an additional dose of melatonin at the end of the day.
Even if being in bed feels like the best solution on a difficult morning following a short night’s sleep, it’s vital to make sure teenagers get out in the sunlight at an appropriate time to ensure their body clocks are not messed around in the long term. Getting into a routine like this and avoiding the cycle of lie-ins and struggling to sleep will help avoid the pitfalls of sleep deprivation, and if this isn’t enough to fix a particularly out-of-sync system, a doctor might advise seeing a specialist or visiting a sleep clinic to find further assistance.