Sleep is vital for good health for people of all ages. But it is especially important for teens. When teens don’t get enough sleep, they lose their ability to concentrate and may find school more difficult. Fatigue affects teen emotions and can lead to feelings of sadness and depression. Lack of sleep may also play a part in teen auto accidents. According to Kids Health, up to 15 percent of teen drivers drive while drowsy. Statistics on teen drivers show that they are three times more likely to die in a car accident than older drivers, and that driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk, with up to 60 percent of car accidents due to lack of sleep.
What Happens During Sleep
Everything in a teen’s body is changing. He’s getting taller and building muscle mass. His brain is developing and there are hormonal changes that affect every part of his life. During sleep, the body rests from all the teen does during the day. But on a cellular level, the body is working all night. Growth hormones are released. Blood floods to muscles to help repair tissue and grow. The brain becomes active during Rapid Eye Movement sleep, with neurons firing every 90 minutes or so throughout the night. The National Sleep Foundation states that the hormones cortisol, leptin and gherlin are all rebalanced and regulated. Cortisol lowers during the early hours of sleep, but rises toward morning so that your teen relaxes during the night and wakes alert. Leptin and gherlin play a part in the body’s hunger and satiation cycles. Teens with leptin and gherlin imbalances are more likely to overeat during the day.
How Much Sleep Do Teens Need
Because teens are growing, and experiencing many different hormonal changes, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that teens need around nine hours of sleep a night for good health. To set a proper bedtime with your teen, simply count backwards from the time they must get up for school. If she has to get up at 7:00 a.m. to be ready for school at 8:00 a.m., then she should be ready to fall asleep around 10:00 the night before. If she has to get up at 5:30 a.m., then she should be ready to go to sleep at 8:30 p.m., the night before.
Threats to Good Teen Sleep
Part of the problem with teens and sleep is that their internal sleep clock changes. The website TeensHealth, states that the hormone responsible for sleep, melatonin, is produced later at night for most teens. This means that your teen may not feel sleepy until later at night. With his body still craving nine hours of sleep, this means that he will want to sleep later in the morning. When your night owl has to get up early for class, he may look for a jolt of energy in sugar, caffeine or any of the popular energy drinks on the market. These stimulants affect his sleep even more, and a cycle of sleep deprivation is born.
How to Help Your Teen Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation has several remedies for helping your teen get a good night's sleep. With your teen's help, set a regular bedtime, especially for school nights. Make sure that her bedroom is reserved just for sleep and is comfortable and dark. Encourage your teen to get regular exercise during the day. Help her to stay away from stimulants, especially in the evening. Instead, encourage a short nap in the afternoon to help her stay alert for night activities. But keep the nap under half an hour. Long naps can prevent a good night’s sleep. Help your teen to set aside worries or daily concerns at night. Use a diary or a “To Do” list to help slow down her mind before sleep.
- National Sleep Foundation: Teens and Sleep
- Centers for Disease Control: Teen Drivers Factsheet
- CNN: Sleep Deprivation as Bad as Alcohol Impairment, Study Suggests
- Kids Health: How Much Sleep Do I Need
- The American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Your Teen's Bedtime
- National Sleep Foundation: What Happens When You Sleep
- Jetta Productions/Lifesize/Getty Images