Does your teenager struggle to go to bed early? There’s a good reason why – and it’s not their fault.
Despite the National Sleep Foundation recommending that teens get 8-10 hours of sleep per night, many are sleep deprived, and get far less. With schools and universities starting lessons early, some young people only manage 5 or 6 hours of rest before they have to wake up.
However, this has nothing to do with bad self-organisation. When puberty kicks in, new circadian rhythms do too. Teenagers experience a “delayed sleep phase”: this means that while their adolescent brains are shifting into their final developments, their circadian rhythms are reset.
Before this change, they might have felt sleepy at around 9pm or 10pm. But this shift in hormones means that they are more likely to start feeling tired from 11pm onwards, with some rhythms fluctuating as late as 1am. Even if you encouraged your teenager to go to bed early, they’d only lie awake until their own sleeping pattern kicked in.
Research has shown that nearly two thirds of young people are sleep deprived. Helping your teenager achieve a good amount of sleep is important; if a person is regularly starved of sleep, it can cause a variety of health problems like obesity, hypertension and depressive disorders. If your teen also suffers from snoring or sleep apnoea, the risk of developing these health problems increases. If you suspect your child might be waking in the night because of sleep apnoea*, you should take them to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Tips for helping your teen get a good night’s sleep include:
1) Creating a comfortable sleeping environment for them, by making sure their bedroom is cool and quiet.
2) Encouraging them to spend time outside, as natural light produces melatonin, a hormone that tells our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up.
3) Creating a routine where they can get used to going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day.
For more information on sleep deprivation and sleep apnoea, see the tab above entitled Do I Have Sleep Apnoea?
*When we sleep, our airways relax and narrow. If the airway narrows too much, fast-travelling air is pulled through the airway, causing the soft tissue in the back of our throats to become dehydrated and vibrate. This sound is called snoring. In some cases, the airway becomes so narrow that the walls of the airway stick together and close up. This usually happens for 10-30 seconds, but can occur for longer. When the airway finally opens up again, the sleeper will emit a loud, violent snore. This is known as an apnoea.If it's left untreated, sleep apnoea can become a serious condition. If you suspect that you or your child suffer from sleep apnoea, we recommend that you see your doctor as soon as possible.