Why is my teen always so tired and is it affecting their health?
Most teenagers are sleep deprived. Whether it’s late nights on social media, texting with friends, or plain old difficulty sleeping, lack of quality sleep is resulting in anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Teens need at minimum, eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, most teens are averaging about seven hours.
Shifts in sleep schedules
Around the time of puberty, there is a normal shift in an adolescent’s internal clock of about two hours. For example, a 14-year-old, who used to fall asleep easily at 9:00 p.m., will have difficulty falling asleep before 11:00 p.m. The time that teens naturally wake up also shifts two hours later. As teens’ internal clocks are shifting later, high school starts even earlier. Not only does this result in not getting enough sleep, but it also requires adolescents to get up for school when they are least alert. Additionally, many teens stay up later on non-school nights and sleep in late on the weekends. Although this may seem like a good idea, it can contribute to sleep problems.
Social performance and obligations
Many high-achieving, college-bound high school students state that they must stay up late to get their homework done, participate in extracurricular and athletic activities, and socialize via social media and texting. However, studies show that students who get better grades sleep more, not less. Not getting enough sleep is also associated with getting to school late and missing school, as well as poor performance on standardized tests. Not getting enough sleep may result in problems with attention, memory, decision-making, organization, and creativity. All of these are important for success in school.
Caffeine, Drugs & Alcohol
Teens are increasingly turning to caffeine, whether it’s coffee or energy drinks, caffeine pills or gums, to combat the effects of not getting enough sleep. And some are taking prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall. Not only are these things potentially addictive and physically harmful (and in some cases, even illegal), they may also disrupt sleep at night. As a result, most adolescents are chronically sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep will affect your teen’s functioning.
Mood and behavior
Sleep-deprived teens are often moody, irritable, and cranky. They are more likely to get frustrated and upset. Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to depression and impulsiveness in teens. They are more likely to do risky things, such as drinking, driving fast, and other dangerous activities.
Teens, especially older teenage boys, are at the highest risk for falling asleep at the wheel. The most common drowsy driving accident involves a single vehicle with a single driver who drives off the road. These accidents most often happen late at night and in the middle of the afternoon. So, don’t be fooled that just because it is bright daylight, your teen won’t fall asleep at the wheel. All teens that are not getting enough sleep are at risk, especially when a beer or two, marijuana, and relative driving inexperience compound lack of sleep. Make sure that your teen understands that caffeine does not counteract or reverse the effects of alcohol.
Getting your teen to sleep may seem like an uphill battle, but don’t give up. Implementing even a few of these tips will make a difference in your teens physical and mental health. If you’re concerned about your teen's sleep health, contact your pediatrician or a pediatric sleep specialist.
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