The sources of stress on teenagers are varied: School, peer pressure, jobs, social activities and hormonal fluctuations can all cause stress. As a result of this stress, as well as other factors, sleep problems â€” such as sleep deprivation â€” in teens are common.
Sleep in Teens
Most teens need about nine hours of sleep per night. However, many teens regularly get less than eight hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation (n.d.).
Sleep deprivation in teens can have a variety of consequences, including:
- Drowsy driving and increased accident risk
- Health problems
- Poor academic performance.
Teenagers and Sleep Problems
Everyone has an internal clock. This clock influences hormonal changes, body temperature and sleep cycles.
When adolescents go through puberty, their internal clock shifts, generally causing teens to feel drowsy about two hours later than younger children. Teenagers aren’t ready to go to bed early, but must still rise at the same time to get to school on weekdays.
To help accommodate teenagers and sleep changes, some schools have adopted later start times. For example, rather than starting classes at 7:30 a.m., a high school may hold its first class at 8:30 a.m. According to the National Sleep Foundation (n.d.), schools that have implemented delayed start times have seen the following benefits:
- Decreased tardiness
- Improved academic performance and student behavior
- Increased alertness.
Teenagers and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is sleep disorder that occurs when a person stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. Sleep apnea may be caused by a blockage in the throat, nose or mouth. Overweight and obese teens are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
People who have sleep apnea often snore, have difficulty breathing and sweat during the night. All of these sleep disruptions can make the sufferer feel exhausted during the day. Teens experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea should report symptoms to a doctor.
Insomnia and Sleep Deprivation in Teens
Many teens suffer from insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Feeling tired even after a night of sleep
- Frequently waking up and not being able to fall back to sleep
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up early in the morning.
Illness, sleep pattern changes, jet lag, extreme temperatures or the effects of stress on teenagers can all cause occasional bouts of insomnia. Short-term insomnia lasts from a few nights to several weeks and usually resolves by itself.
Long-term insomnia lasts for months and may be caused by depression, chronic illness, medications or asthma. Teens with long-term insomnia should talk to a doctor so that they can get the sleep they need.
Dealing with Teen Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders in teens often respond well to minimal treatment. Sleep deprivation in teens often resolves as the body’s biological clock adjusts to adult sleep patterns. Decreased caffeine intake, avoiding daytime naps and avoiding high-energy activities just before bedtime can improve teen sleep.
If insomnia results from stress on teenagers, it may help for teens to talk about their stressors. Friends, family and guidance counselors can listen to teens and help them through stressful times. Teens under stress might also want to consider learning about the various ways to deal with or eliminate stress.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Teen sleep: Why is your teen so tired? Retrieved August 26, 2010, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/teens-health/CC00019.
National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Backgrounder: Later school start times. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/hot-topics/backgrounder-later-school-start-times.
Palo Alto Medical Foundation. (2008). Sleep problems, age 12 and over. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.pamf.org/teen/healthinfo/index.cfm?section=healthinfo