Changing Patterns with Growing Bodies

Teens need sleep just as much as younger kids. Studies have shown the teens should sleep 8.5 to 9.5 hours each night. On top of that their daytime sleepiness is increased. This has been shown even when their schedule allows for adequate amounts of sleep. Teens are constantly sleepy. As kids age into adolescence, their circadian rhythms undergo a phase delay. This is a tendency toward later times of waking and sleeping. Studies have shown that a typical high school student’s time to fall asleep is around 11:00pm or even later.

Surveys have shown some striking data where teens just are not getting enough sleep, especially on school nights. A study showed that only 15% of adolescents reported sleeping 8.5 hours on school nights, and over 25% of teens reported usually sleeping less than 6.5 hours a night on a school night.

Teens Accumulate Sleep Debt

Those that are around teens recognize that they have very irregular sleep patterns, where there is a great discrepancy between weekday and weekend sleeping patterns. Often this discrepancy is a direct result of the sleep debt that is accumulated throughout the busy school week. The dramatic difference influence both sleep duration and when the teens go to bed. Studies have shown that teens are sleeping almost two whole hours longer on weekends compared to weekdays.

Many teens also suffer from Insomnia. A study from the University of Texas1 studied sleep patterns of over 3000 teenagers and found that one in four teens showed significant symptoms of Insomnia every day for a month. Symptoms of Insomnia were categorized as non-restorative sleep, trouble falling asleep, nighttime waking with difficulty falling asleep again, and early morning awakening. When the teens were asked again a year later, almost (45.8%) half had one or more of these symptoms and more than a third (34.7%) had at least one symptom with an addition of fatigue and sleepiness. That suggests a progression of their condition. This suggests that Insomnia in teens is a great public health problem and a major chronic disease affecting a large portion of teenagers in the United States.

1) Reference: Robert E. Roberts, Sleep (Vol. 31; No. 2, 2008, p. 177)

Poor Sleep is Linked to Lower Grades

Sleep deprived teens will experience excessive daytime sleepiness, which will negatively impact their academic performance. High School students who are earning C averages report getting less sleep, going to bed later, and having more irregular sleep schedules compared to students with higher Grade Point Averages (GPA).

Sleep teens have also been known to express more negative moods such as anger and sadness. Studies have suggested that sleep deprivation may be associated with a decreased ability to control, inhibit, or change emotional responses. Additionally, symptoms of sleepiness, such as lack of focus, impulsiveness, decreased ability to sit still in class, and not completing tasks may resemble symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Sleep deprivation can also lead to increased likelihood of stimulant use, such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other substances.

Sleep Deprivation Kills Teens

Sleepy teens are a high risk group for motor vehicle accidents. Studies show that more teens are killed in motor vehicle accidents due to falling asleep at the wheel than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sleep deprivation impairs teens’ judgment and their ability to recognize danger. It is known that sleepiness and fatigue leads to impaired reaction times and poorer vision. There are also problems with information processing and short-term memory- both of which are vital to young, inexperienced drivers. Sleepiness also leads to increased moodiness and aggression, which are a deadly combination in traffic.

8 Sleep Tips for Teens

  1. Make more time for sleep. Make it a Priority.
  2. Protect your sleep-wake schedule.
  3. Get up and out as soon as you can. Sunlight wakes up the brain and fights sleepiness.
  4. Pay attention to your natural circadian rhythm for sleep. Go to bed when you feel tired.
  5. Stay away from caffinated beverages and especially, nicotine.
  6. Relax using internal activities like meditation, reading, and relaxation exercises before bed.
  7. Don’t drive if you know you are sleepy. It is even more dangerous than drinking and driving.
  8. Talk to your parents, your doctor, or a Sleep Medicine Specialist. If you are constantly tired or not sleeping well, you may have an underlying sleep disorder.