Ever wondered why your teenager struggles to get out of bed in the morning? Well you’ll be pleased to hear, it’s not just because your teen has been doing a nightshift on the PlayStation/YouTube/Snapchat (though that probably isn’t helping). Research suggests the hormonal upheaval during puberty is partly behind the night owl behaviour displayed by many teens.
In our good-sleep guide for teens we take a look at the factors affecting teenagers’ sleep. Along with some insight and tips on supporting your teens to get the sleep they need.
Circadian rhythms are different for teens
So what are circadian rhythms? The body’s circadian rhythm is the internal body clock that regulates biological processes in a 24-hour cycle. The brain releases a hormone, melatonin, to encourage sleep. In adults, it has been shown that the body releases this hormone at around 9-10pm, after the sun has gone down. Melatonin levels stay elevated through the night. The hormone controls body temperature (lower at night) and makes us feel sleepy.
In the teenage years it has been found that circadian rhythms change, making it harder for teens to fall asleep earlier. In fact, some studies show that Melatonin in teenagers is released at 1am, which explains why they can be so full of beans late in the evening. The biological fact is, teenagers’ body clocks are actually programmed to stay up later than everyone else’s
Could a later start to the school day be the answer?
Recent research by the Universities of Birmingham, Oxford and Aberdeen shows sleep deprivation is real a problem for teenagers, affecting functioning, well-being and academic performance.
A further study by the universities is currently looking at what the ideal start time is for the school day (particularly for teenagers in years 10 and 11). The ‘sleep experts’ will be testing out a later start to the school day, to see if teenagers’ school work and well-being could benefit.
How much sleep do teenagers need?
Teenagers need more sleep than children and adults. According to Sleep.org, an online resource powered by The National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours sleep each night. They suggest that most teenagers get no more than seven-and-a-half hours per night, leading to sleep deprivation of one or two hours every night.
The digital drain
There’s no doubt the digital age is having a huge impact on teens’ sleep patterns. It’s been shown in the news, digital devices are affecting teens’ sleep and mood. Speaking to The Guardian Newspaper, sleep expert Lynette Vernon of Murdoch University in Perth explains that
digital devices disrupt sleep in two ways. Firstly, the bright light from screens disrupts natural circadian rhythms. Secondly, phone messages received before sleep spike “cognitive and emotional arousal.”
How to create a sleep-friendly bedroom
One way to encourage a good sleep routine is to ensure your teenager has a calm, quiet, dark, cool and comfortable bedroom for sleeping in. Invest in a decent bed and mattress (here’s a handy bed buying guide), as well as quality bed linens. A comfortable bed is much more inviting. Teenagers seem to love an upgrade to a queen or double bed if you have the room.
Prevent early morning sunlight from interfering with sleep with black-out curtains or blinds. Dilute a few drops of relaxing aromatherapy oils, such as lavender, in water and use a spray bottle to spritz pillows.
Long lie-ins at the weekend are not the answer
Of course it makes sense for your teen to catch up on some zzzzs at the weekend. But letting them stay in bed until lunchtime will only have a further detrimental effect on circadian rhythms. Give your teen an extra hour or two, but avoid letting them sleep in all day.
Daytime napping good for teens
The latest sleep research coming out of the University of Delaware USA has found that regular napping can help adolescents overcome sleep deprivation. The study, investigating the relationship between sleep and cognition, looked at a school in China. Circadian rhythms were shown to dip between 12 midday and 2pm, and that in China a midday nap is considered part of a healthy lifestyle. The study found a positive relationship between midday napping and better night-time sleep
5 tips for a good sleep routine
Encouraging a good sleep routine is vitally important for your teen’s well-being, development and academic success. A teenager’s body repairs and grows during sleep. Here are 5 tips for encouraging a good sleep routine:
- Talk about the importance of sleep
- Talk about the negative effects of light and digital devices on sleep
- Set up a calming bed-time routine
- Agree to remove digital devices from the bedroom after a certain time (at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours before bed-time)
- If your teen is exhibiting behavioural difficulties or depression, consider lack of sleep as a possible contributing factor
Until Next Time… Charlotte x