It is approaching noon and you have not yet seen your adolescent daughter come out of her room on a Saturday. Or your teenage boy is still not getting out of bed after his alarm is blaring on a school morning. If you are a parent, does either of these sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone! These are two scenarios that are fairly common in a home that has a teenager. Why? Teenagers and sleep have a complicated relationship…
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) emphasizes that for teenagers there are social and biological factors that impact their sleep. Adolescence is a period of growth and change. Not only are they physically changing but research shows that the patterns in their sleep / wake cycles change too. The UCLA Sleep Disorders Center highlights on their website “the average teen needs about nine hours of sleep.” Most teens are not getting that on a consistent basis. Most don’t realize or know that is recommended; they are either sleeping too much or too little.
With evenings filled with social and academic demands combined with biological changes no wonder a teen has poor sleep patterns. However, parents can help their son or daughter improve their sleep and understand why it is important to do so. Many times teens’ understanding of proper sleep hygiene and the importance of sleep is absent. Education and support will go a long way.
The first step is to educate and role model that sleep is as important as food and water. Second, explain what constitutes healthy habits around sleep. The following can be used as a guideline:
- Make their bedroom serene, dark and quiet
- Move out of the bedroom when not sleeping
- Try and resist naps, however if naps occur keep them short
- Keep to a routine – go to bed and wake up at similar times
Lack of sleep can have serious consequences. Parents need to pay attention to signs that a teen may not be getting enough sleep. However, it is just as important for parents to educate themselves and their children about these following signs and consequences:
- Increased learning, focus, and attention difficulties
- Poor grades
- Altered decision making skills
- Mood changes – increase irritability or depression
- Increased chance for high risk behaviors such as hasty driving or substance use
- Changes in appearance
- Decline in physical health
Overall, teens need sleep but too much or too little impacts overall functioning a great deal. Teenagers that become aware of how their lives will be altered by poor sleep and those that learn to recognize that they are actually experiencing trouble will be more likely to make a change. A psychologist can assist a teen with altering their sleep patterns with behavioral interventions.
Written by Joshua Rosenthal, PsyD