We can say it until we’re blue in the face, but our teenagers are still children. Now, even though they’ve stopped out-growing their shoes every 6 months, your teenagers are still in the process of maturing. Hormonal adjustment, cognitive development, and social transformation are all part of an adolescent becoming a young adult. Like it or not, the reality of correcting any sleep problems in your teen takes a little time, focus, and discipline.
For all of these radical life changes happening simultaneously, your teens need their rest. According to a John Hopkins Pediatrician, teens require about 9 hours of sleep each night.
No parent would dare to keep a newborn baby from getting its rest. Instinctively, we know that a baby still needs to grow both physically and cognitively. And the science seems to bear that out. Teenagers seem like functional adults, despite us knowing that they’re merely transitioning to ones. So, most parents don’t train their older children with a structured habit for their sleeping patterns.
Culturally, sleep itself isn’t valued as much in our non-stop, always-connected modern lifestyles. It becomes viewed as just another activity—an optional one to wakefulness, rather than an activity that’s seen on equal footing. The same way in which we create morning rituals for transitioning from sleep to wakefulness, it’s important to discipline ourselves around our sleep. This includes:
- Choosing your sleep schedule
- Staying consistent
- Giving some “wind down time” to relax
- Avoiding any energizing drinks with sugars/caffeine and any big, heavy meals close to bedtime.
Our devices are hard to put down. As adults, though, we didn’t grow up with smartphones buzzing and chirping with push notifications. Despite the relative newness of these internet-connected devices to us, we have a difficult time putting down our devices. Imagine what your teenagers feel like who’ve grown up with them always around!
In addition to seeming like a perfectly benign device, our smart phones and their accompanying apps are also being designed and crafted to addict us.
Social science engineering notwithstanding, the LED displays that grab our teenagers’ attention are also terrible for maintaining their nighttime routine. Melatonin production is an important component to beginning your teen’s sleep cycle, but Harvard Health has done a few studies on the effect blue light has on the body’s circadian rhythm. The root cause is that the display’s blue light the contains an energy level that signals our brains the same message that morning sunlight does.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Teenagers experience obstructive sleep apnea when they have restricted breathing through their airways. Just like in adults, they’re not getting a full breath when they’re sleeping. This airway constriction can be commonly attributed to structural impediments, like enlarged tonsils or adenoids, that may have grown faster than the teenager’s throat passageway. A large overbite can also cause experience obstructive sleep apnea since the airway becomes misaligned when as the lower jaw relaxes for sleep. This is the same issue that occurs when obese teenagers have excess soft tissue in the throat that relaxes to impede a full breath.
Whatever the cause, the result could be chronic fatigue, depression, or out-of-whack hormones. As rates of depression are usually higher among emotionally developing teenagers, ensuring that sleep is not adding to that naturally occurring tendency would be helpful for a child’s mental health. Given that teenagers are at such a decisive moment of their lives with regards to a hormonal system in flux, it’s important to minimize any disruptions of that normal growth chemical.
Teenagers USUALLY experience insomnia as a result of temporary environmental conditions: emotional stress from social relationships, anxiety from familial ones, or increased smartphone usage. Given that teenagers are transitioning into a new state of adulthood, their circadian rhythm has shifted to maintaining wakefulness to a later hour.
But insomnia is considered chronic if it lasts longer than a month. Sometimes, though, our teens’ brains simply aren’t wired well for comfortable, routine sleep. That’s alright.
Chronic insomnia can one of those physiological impediments to your teenager getting a full night’s rest. If a teenager’s chronic insomnia isn’t related to their environmental conditions, then medical conditions like mental-health problems, medication side effects, or substance abuse could be the cause.
Whether it’s from behavioral changes, environmental disruptions, or airway restrictions, interruptions to sleep need to be minimized as much as possible in teenagers. Parents are important for modeling good behavior as well as creating certain healthy parameters around sleep. Kids will be kids (and teenagers even worse so). Since teenagers’ bodies are so resilient, it doesn’t take much to get them embracing healthy sleeping habits today. Setting simple weekday goals can help keep teenagers get the rest they need, so they can tackle the challenges that their ever-busier, ever-more-connected lives will throw at them.
Is your teenager tired from staying up late at night? We’ve got plenty of options for them. Help your teen take back their sleep (so you can sleep soundly knowing they’re getting a full night’s rest) by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Pasha and his team. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for more updates!