Significance of Sleep in Teenagers

We need sleep to rest our brain. When we sleep our brain goes into a reduced or absent state of consciousness backed by moderately paused sensory activities and idleness of almost all the voluntary muscles of our body. However, our body & our brain keep on functioning actively and normally though with a somewhat reduced ability to react to various stimuli. However, the purpose and the mechanism of sleep are yet to be fully and accurately ascertained by the analysts. However, they have managed to come to the conclusion that in different ages, sleep can have different causes and effects on human life.

Majority of people suffer from sleep deprivation at one point in time of their lives. Occurrence of sleep deprivation once or twice during the entire life span is perfectly alright and there is hardly any reason to worry about that. However, if it happens during the early childhood days, especially during the teens, then that is something to be taken care of at the earliest. This is the time when a human body and mind undergo a series of changes to take a permanent shape and form. Therefore, any aberration at this juncture can make a lot of difference so far as physical and mental structure of the individual is concerned.

Sleeping During Teens: Various Aspects

Technically speaking, teens are perhaps the most vital stages of human life. It is during this stage, when the mind and the body of an individual undergo the maximum extent of change. This is the time when an individual moves over to adolescence from puberty. As a result of this, teens are more prone and responsive to stress and strain than anyone else.

Prolonged study has revealed that various factors including stress and strain tend to have certain effect on the sleeping pattern in the teens. In some, it results in excessive sleeping by disturbing the body clock. This causes these individuals to stay up till late in the night and it becomes virtually impossible to awake them till late in the morning. Again, in some others an altogether different sleeping pattern can be noticed when the individual has hardly any sleep. As per the analysts, it’s the direct effect of the mental changes that take place during the time and the effect of the environment on that changing mindset. This happens when a teen tries a bit too hard to come in terms of the competitiveness in the daily life and its stress & strain. Hence it can be said that sleeping pattern is the physical manifestation of the mental and physical metamorphosis that a teen undergoes.

As per the statistics, much of excessive sleepiness among teens can be attributed to their frustration of not living up to the expectations of their parents. Some other factors like part-time or odd jobs, early-morning schools, excessive pressure of homework, too much extracurricular activities, pressure of meeting the social demands, excessive use of different electronic gadgets including computers are also responsible for sleeplessness during teens. Furthermore, a study conducted by Journal of School Health has also revealed that over 90 percent of modern teens sleep much less than 9 hours per day – the amount of sleep recommended by the physicians. The study also showed that 10 percent of teens sleep less than even six hours per night.

The results have come to the conclusion that nearly 46% of the adolescent subjects put under the survey, scored between 10 and 15 on depression scale, 37% of them scored between 15 and 19, while 17% scored between 20 and 30.

Effects of sleeplessness on teen age body

The activities that we perform round the clock are strictly influenced and in some cases, governed by an internal biological clock. This clock influences the temperature of our body, our sleep cycle, out appetite and various hormonal changes and secretion. The biological & psychological processes of our body that are strictly governed by this 24-hour clock are known as Circadian Rhythms. In case of children who are yet to attain adolescence, the Circadian Rhythm tells the body to fall asleep by 8 or 9 in the night. However, during puberty it directs them to stay awake till 11 or beyond. Hence staying further awake disturbs the body clock and this directly influences the biological and psychological activities of the body.

It is seen that the teens in general, have a propensity of sleeping too little to maintain maximum alertness during the day and make most of the day to complete various activities. Though they require a minimum of nine hours of sleep, that requirement is hardly met, chiefly to meet the demands that the modern students’ life asks for.

Too little sleep during teen age:

  • Restricts the ability of learning and listening, affects concentration and the ability of troubleshooting. It increases forgetfulness to such an extent that the individual in question forgets information like names and numbers, appointments and dates, home work and other things.
  • Results in metabolic disorder that in turns makes the individual susceptible to pimples and other types of skin ailments like acne. 
  • Can give rise to aggressive and inappropriate behavior, temper tantrums while interacting with teachers, family members and friends, for little or no reason along with marked reduction of patience and endurance
  • Can at times result in improper appetite and craving for fast foods during odd hours – a phenomenon that directly affects the metabolic system of the individual in the long run 
  • Will aggravate the effects of substance abuse including alcohol besides heightening the propensity of using caffeine & nicotine
  • Besides these direct effects, too little sleep can also result in the individuals falling asleep in wrong places and at wrong times, especially behind the wheel while driving, causing fatal accidents. 

Other superficial effects of sleeplessness amongst children include symptoms of Irritability & moodiness, signs of hyperactivity, signs of persistence tiredness even after getting up in the morning, fussiness over trivial issues and a nagging attitude & crying, deterioration of performance in school and tuition, clumsiness, poor controlling ability over impulse, short naps during daytime and a reluctance in getting up in morning.

Sleep Deprivation: The Principle Causes

When we tend to discuss the principle causes behind loss of sleep in children during their teens there are a number of factors that can be held accountable. Some of them pose direct effect while others may be indirect, though important reasons behind sleep deprivation.

The principle causes of sleep deprivation amongst children, especially those in their teens are anxiety, strain and stress, hindered or defective physical development, depression and dejection, obesity, lowered immune system, diabetes and so on. Sleep deprivation in children produces an overall impact on their health and leads to serious health conditions.

Let us look into various causes of sleep deprivation in children in details:

  • Intake of excessive caffeine all throughout the day, particularly during night and at the time of going to the bed may result in sleep deprivation
  • If there are too many stimulants in the bedroom like television or music system, computer and other electronic gadgets, it can cause sleep deprivation in teens. This may include getting into the bed with mobile phone as well. 
  • If the child in question has a propensity of waking up too many times during night this can cause loss of sleep.
  • Again, if the child is suffering from any anxiety and stress from prolonged period of time, this can cause some problem for the child when it comes to falling asleep. 
  • Certain issue like periodic movement of limbs, snoring & sleep apnea can also cause hindrance to sleep.
  • Intake of certain medicines for treating certain medical conditions can also result in sleep deprivation.
  • In certain cases, children who have a tendency of playing till late in the evening at times may develop sleep deprivation. Too much physical exercise and hyper-activities can result in secretion of excessive adrenaline, which keeps the muscles tensed and this prevents sleeping.

Dealing with Sleep Deprivation during Teens and Looking For Some Remedy: Some Tips for the Parents and Teachers:

Children suffering from sleep deprivation can cause series of problems at homes or in schools and can turn out to be major headaches for parents at home and teachers in schools. However, dealing with these children asks for a special technique. Children suffering from sleep deprivation shows inattentiveness, suffers from lack of concentration and may fall asleep in the class (while in school) or at odd hours of the day while in home. Scolding them or treating them harshly is not a very wise thing to do as they do not do all these intentionally but due to some shortfall in their physical and mental system. Let us discuss some ways in which to deal with children who are suffering from sleep deprivation during their teens.

  • Ensure that your teen is sleeping for a minimum of eight and a half to nine and a half hours every night. A little less than this for a night or two due to an early morning tuition or class will not make any vast difference. However, see that this does not become habit. Sticking to this routine for a prolonged period of time will help your teen to overcome the habit of not sleeping.
  • Allow your child to sleep till late in the morning if he has stayed up late the previous night. During the weekends and in other holidays, do not wake him up if he is sleeping till late in the morning. Allow him to sleep as much as he can as this will help him make up the lost sleep during the week.
  • Keep a strict vigil to ensure that he spends minimum number of sleepless nights or nights when he has minimum sleep. If the extracurricular activities of his school are taking toll on his sleep, do not hesitate to have a talk to the principle or the concerned teacher.
  • For the teachers, if any student is falling asleep during classes, instead of being harsh on him talk to his parents and draw their attention. Again, if the children tend to fall asleep after working out drills and other extracurricular activities, it is better to talk to the principal and the concerned teacher to see what can be done. Needless to say, the parents should be talked to as well regarding the issue.
  • For the parents, see if your teen is taking too much of coffee. Put a restriction in the intake of coffee & sugar and make sure he takes it only during evenings. Most teens have a propensity of drinking too much beverages and this can cause sleeplessness.
  • It is important to observe the sleeping pattern of your teen very carefully. If he has the habit of snoring, help him out. A wide variety of products are available in the markets that help to stop snoring. Get him one but only after consulting your house physician. If it does not help, consult the doctor for some tips and ask for help if needed.
  • Set a routine for your teen and tell him to abide by it as strictly as possible. Maintain a day to day record of the amount of sleep your child gets every night. If you find that your child is sleeping less than what is needed, set fresh guidelines and make sure he gets more time to sleep. Be strict to send him to bed early in the night and see he actually sleeps. Remove all the sleep deterrents like computer, lap top, music system, and other electronic gadgets from his bedroom. If needed, do not allow him to go to bed with his mobile.
  • Change the color of the walls of his room. Put up darker curtains and make sure the night lamp is soothing enough that should encourage sleep.
  • If needed you can start counseling your teen. Talk to him and try to make out what really is keeping him awake.
  • Make out if he is suffering from sleep disorder. If so, he needs immediate medical attention. The symptoms of a simple sleeping problem and a sleep disorder are somewhat identical at the beginning. If you are not sure, you can get him to your house physician to be on safer side. Sleep disorder, if not diagnosed and treated can give rise to serious consequences later on.
  • Do not allow him to get over tired and then drive.
  • Last but not be least, do not self-diagnose. If you are not confident about the situation, do not think twice before getting to a doctor.

Before concluding, it should be mentioned that in certain cases parents are responsible for the sleep deprivation in their teens. Either they are too much ignorant about the habits their teens are developing or they are encouraging in certain activities like watching television till late in the night, letting the children watching movies of too much violence and horror or letting them chat to friends over phone for too long. These habits, if allowed to carry on for too long will definitely give rise to sleeplessness subsequently. Old habits die hard and so it’s better to follow the old saying, “Prevention is better than cure”. Refrain from helping your teen from developing these habits. As he grows up, be a bit stringent so that he thinks twice before doing something that may be harmful to his body clock and his sleeping pattern. Bring up your child rather smartly instead of repenting later on.

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