Teens and Sleep – Why is Your Teenager so Tired?

It seems many parents may need to start changing bedtime rules in their homes. Traditionally, parents tend to set early bedtimes for young children, allowing teenagers to stay up later. The thinking behind this rule has always been that younger children need more sleep. It has generally been assumed that the younger the child, the earlier they should go to bed. However, recent studies indicate that the reverse is actually true.

How Much Sleep Does Your Teenager Need

Most parents have always assumed that young children need approximately nine to ten hours of sleep at night while teenagers only require approximately eight. Ironically, studies indicate that children between the ages of eight and ten only need about eight hours of slumber. Teenagers, on the other hand, should receive at least nine hours of sleep each night. These same studies show that most teenagers are actually only receiving approximately seven hours of sleep at night. Your teenager may not be lazy; he or she may simply be suffering from sleep deprivation.

Circadian Rhythms

The reason for fatigue in teenagers is often due to circadian rhythms. Most simply refer to this as an internal clock. Everyone has an internal clock that affects appetite, sleep patterns, body temperature, and hormonal changes. Circadian rhythms are actually psychological and biological processes that are occurring within the body, which operate on roughly a 24-hour cycle. In teenagers, hormonal changes and the effects of puberty greatly change these rhythms. The internal clock in pre-adolescent children often causes them to become naturally sleepy at around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. With teenagers, however, the hormonal levels and other changes occurring within the body often prevent tiredness until much later in the evening. As a result, many teenagers are not receiving the proper amount of sleep. If they are not going to sleep until late in the night and must get up early for school, chances are they are not getting the sleep they need.

The Problem

Unfortunately, the majority of schools start at approximately 8:00 in the morning. It is unlikely that your teenager will be able to start the school day later. It is also not a good idea to try to catch up on sleep by sleeping in on the weekends, as this will only throw your teenager’s internal clock off further. Sleep deprivation can lead to any number of difficulties in school and life. Grades may suffer, depression may result, or extreme moodiness may affect relationships.

The Solution

It is unlikely that you will be able to change your teenager’s daily schedule. The good news is that circadian rhythms are somewhat adjustable by a simple change in routine. Following are just a few things that might help your teenager receive an adequate amount of sleep at night:

Create a Schedule — Encourage your teenager to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. This schedule should even pertain to weekends and holidays.

Kick out Caffeine — Try to regulate the amount of caffeine your teenager consumes after a certain time.

Appropriate Lighting — Make sure your teenager’s room is dark at bedtime. You may need to invest in room darkening blinds in order for your teenager to adjust to going to bed at an earlier time. In the morning, open the blinds and let the light shine in!

Calm Activities — Encourage calming activities before bedtime, such as reading a book, listening to soft music, or taking a warm shower. Avoid stimulating activities, such as watching television or listening to loud music.

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