Teenagers are notoriously long sleepers, and rightly so: their developing minds and bodies require plenty of rest. But sometimes busy schedules and other health concerns can lead to sleep deprivation. There is a correlation between a lack of sleep and anxiety, so being able to recognize sleep deprivation and knowing how to remedy it can bolster your teen’s overall health and well-being.
Teenage Sleep Requirements
When your child was in elementary or middle school, he or she probably had an early bedtime and didn’t have too much trouble sticking to it, barring the occasional desire to stay up late to watch a movie. Waking up in the morning for school likely wasn’t too problematic either. But now that he or she has grown into a teenager, you might find yourself having to insist that your teen go to bed before 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. And when morning comes, it’s a struggle to drag your teen out of bed for school. This scenario is all too real and is a source of frustration for many parents. While it’s tempting to say, “I told you so! You need to go to bed earlier!” when your teen complains about being tired in the mornings, there is actually a biological reason why his or her sleep habits changed so drastically after puberty. The teenage biological clock is different from that of an adult. Teens will naturally be ready for bed at a later time, and due to their requirement of at least eight to 10 hours of sleep for proper rest, they will be all too eager to sleep past their alarm clocks in the morning.
Recognizing and Addressing the Effects of Sleep Deprivation
As a result of this altered biological clock and of school schedules that have many teens waking up at 6 a.m., it’s no wonder that your teen may be sleep-deprived. Signs of sleep deprivation in teens include moodiness, irritability, sluggishness, fatigue, an inability to focus, headaches, decreased academic performance, daytime sleep and anxiety. The fact that a lack of sleep and anxiety go hand in hand is particularly troubling, because anxiety can actually cause one to lie awake at night with racing thoughts. This leads to a cycle of poor sleep. In order to combat your teen’s biological clock, try to keep his or her bedroom as dark as possible. Circadian rhythms are influenced by sunlight, so it’s possible to lull the mind into a sleepier state with total darkness. Encourage your teen to go to bed at the same time on the weekends, too. If your teen is anxious at night, help him or her learn some relaxation techniques. Taking a warm bath or shower before bed may help, as can a light snack. But if your teen continues to struggle with sleep deprivation, consider seeking the advice of a sleep therapist for additional tools, tips and tricks for healthy sleep habits.