Leading a healthy lifestyle throughout your teenage years is dependent on a number of factors, and often a good night’s sleep is overlooked. But let’s face it, getting enough sleep is never a top priority at that age!
Not only does quality of sleep affect our overall health and wellbeing, but also our ability to make decisions, problem-solve and handle stress.
Did you know that the average teenager needs between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night? Despite this, most adolescents only get about 6.5 – 7.5 hours.
If the teenagers in your household stay up late and always complain about being tired the next day, we’re discussing some of the key reasons for sleep deprivation below. Not only that but we’ve also provided some helpful tips to ensure that your child catches some much-needed ZZZs.
Causes of teenage sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation and how we deal with it will differ from person to person, but here are some of the key causes:
- Hormonal time shift: hormonal shifts throughout puberty can move a teenager’s body clock forward up to one or two hours, making them tired later in the day. Yet, while the average teenager falls asleep later, early starts for school don’t give them the opportunity to sleep in. This is what we call ‘sleep debt’, which ultimately leads to chronic sleep deprivation
- Demanding after–school schedules: homework, sport, music, drama, part-time work, social commitments – the list goes on! All of this will cut into a teenager’s sleeping time
- Light exposure: light cues the brain to stay awake and exposure to it in the evening from televisions, mobile phones and computer screens can prevent adequate production of melatonin, the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) responsible for sleep
- It’s a vicious circle: insufficient sleep causes a teenager’s brain to become more active, and an over used brain is less likely to allow us to fall asleep
- Social attitudes: in the UK, greater importance is placed on healthy eating and exercise in order to lead a balanced lifestyle but often, sleep is left out of the equation
- Sleep disorder: sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnoea, can affect a teenager’s ability to nod off easily
Top sleep tips for teenagers
With all of this in mind, what advice can we give to teenagers to aid them in a restful night’s sleep?
Sometimes even the smallest of changes can positively impact an individual’s behaviour and sleep, and so we’ve rounded up our top tips below for struggling teens:
- Choose a relaxing bedtime routine; for example, have a bath before bed, or use mindfulness activities to wind down
- Avoid computer games, loud music or any other activities that will get your mind racing an hour before bedtime
- Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea and energy drinks on an evening
- Set up a comfortable sleep environment – think cool and dark. Your brain’s sleep-wake cycle is largely set by light received through the eyes so avoiding watching TV or using a smart phone before bed
- Practice the same bedtime routine every night for at least four weeks to ensure your brain associates this routine with going to sleep
- Get active during the day so you are more physically tired at night
We hope you found this guide useful – and remember that even 30 minutes of extra sleep each night on a regular basis will make a big difference. However, it may take about six weeks before you feel the benefits.