Adolescent Sleep Needs and Patterns

Funny KidsDid you know that adolescents typically require somewhere between 8 ½ to 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night?  Yet a recent study found that only 15% of teens actually get that amount of sleep on a regular basis.

During adolescent development, biological sleep patterns for both sleeping and waking naturally shift toward later in the day.  It is very common for a teen to have trouble falling asleep before 11:00 pm, but this makes it difficult to get enough sleep on school nights when they have to wake up early.  This lack of sleep is usually coupled with irregular sleep patterns—staying up late and sleeping in on weekends—which negatively affects an adolescent’s “biological clock” and diminishes their quality of sleep.

As a result of these bad sleeping habits, many adolescents suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.  Fortunately, these are treatable conditions that can be diagnosed through Pediatric Sleep Testing.

Inadequate sleep is also associated with other consequences including:

  • Weakened immune system and higher rate of illness
  • Weight gain
  • Limited cognitive abilities such as learning, listening, focusing and problem solving
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Acne-prone skin and other dermatological problems
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Increased likelihood for accidents or injuries
  • Impaired physical abilities
  • Dangerous driving

Behavioral or mood-related problems associated with a lack of sleep are prominent among adolescents.  In a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), 73% of teens who reported feeling unhappy, sad, or depressed also reported excessive sleepiness during the day and inadequate sleep at night.

Research shows that while a lack of sleep can negatively affect mood, a depressed mood can lead to anxiety and sleeplessness.  To stop this vicious cycle, it is imperative that parents take action to help their children get good sleep.

Supporting Healthy Sleep

There are several ways to help your adolescent get better sleep at night.

  • Create a bedroom that is optimally conducive to good sleep.  Keep the room cool, dark and quiet.  Blackout curtains or eyeshades at night can be helpful.
  • Avoid caffeine (like coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) during the last part of the day.
  • Do not eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid stimulation from technology (TV, computer, phone, etc.) for at least an hour before going to bed.  Quiet, calm activities like reading will help your child fall asleep faster.
  • Establish structured sleeping and waking times and stick to the schedule every day—even the weekends! Once the body adjusts to a natural pattern, it will become easier to fall asleep and easier to wake up every day.
  • Create a bedtime routine that gets repeated every night.  For example, dim all the lights in the house, then shower and read a book.  Doing the same things every night will train the body to recognize signals that it’s time to sleep.

Some adolescents may respond well to keeping a sleep diary to track their sleeping patterns.  If anxiety is a problem, a notepad next to the bed can help release thoughts.

Sleep is just as important for the body as eating, drinking and breathing.  If your adolescent is struggling with behavioral issues or other problems, inadequate sleep may be to blame.

Lion Sleep Labs offer Pediatric Sleep Testing to measure body functions during sleep to help pinpoint the reasons your child may not be sleeping well.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, please Contact Us today.