As teenagers begin to assert their independence, they look for decisions they can make for themselves. One of those decisions is when to go to sleep. With many distractions from homework to social media, your child might be tempted to stay up too late, resulting in grumpy mornings and daytime sleepiness that gets in the way of their performance at school and social activities.
So how much sleep does your growing teenager need? Our team of expert physicians here at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, recommends that teenagers aim for at least nine to nine and a half hours of sleep every night. However, studies show American teenagers often only sleep for seven hours per night. Read on to learn everything you need to know about adolescents and sleep.
What disrupts your teenager’s rest
While sleep is critical to your teenager’s health and wellness, many factors in their lives prevent a solid night’s sleep. For example, our teenager might be dealing with:
- Puberty-related hormonal fluctuations that interfere with a healthy sleep cycle
- Anxiety or stress-related insomnia
- Waking up too soon for early start times for sports practice, school or other activities
- The pressure to fit too many academic and extracurricular activities as well as socializing into their day
As an adult, you might look back at your adolescence as a time delightfully devoid of adult responsibilities and stress. While you might have rose-colored glasses to remember your teen years, today, around a third of teenagers have anxiety disorders and even more suffer from extreme stress.
Your teenager has a full life, with new experiences and changes around every corner. Finding ways to help them rest and recharge is key to helping your child navigate these challenges.
Risks of not getting enough sleep
Everyone has a sleepless night occasionally, and you’re well aware of the physical and mental fatigue of not getting enough sleep. However, unique factors in your teen’s life and biology make over-tiredness even harder to deal with for them than it is for adults.
Studies show that many US teens don’t get enough sleep at night or have irregular sleep patterns. Constant irregular and insufficient sleep have observable adverse effects on their health and wellbeing. Not getting enough sleep can lead to problems, including:
- Reduced cognitive ability including listening, learning, and remembering
- Short-temper, depression, and reduced mood regulation
- Increased risk of eating unhealthy foods or relying on energy drinks and caffeine
- Compromised immune system leading to more illness and missed days of school
- Diminished decision-making skills and increasingly reckless behavior
Your teen needs to be well-rested and alert, whether they’re taking an important test or driving through a busy intersection. If your teen doesn’t get enough high-quality sleep, they may have problems with school, mood issues, or even dangerous behaviors.
How to make sure your teen gets enough sleep
Your teen might be striving for independence, but you can still influence their sleep schedule. Support and consistency at home can help even the most stubborn or resistant young people.
At home, encourage the whole family to maintain a regular sleep schedule — going to bed and getting up around the same time every day, even on weekends. It’s tempting to “catch up” on sleep at the weekend, but your teen and the whole family will benefit from a regular sleep rhythm. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a nap, sometimes taking just 15-20 minutes to close your eyes can make a big difference.
As if you didn’t need another reason to keep these products out of your home, caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and other nonprescription drugs can disrupt sleep. You can also encourage your family to shut down stimulating technologies, like computers, gaming consoles, or television, right before bed. The combination of blue light and brain stimulation can make it harder for your teenager to fall asleep.
If you’re concerned about the quantity or quality of your teen’s sleep, contact the team at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center today. The physicians offer advice on the best way to support your teen’s sleep needs. Call the practice or book an appointment online today.