Sleep deprivation might not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences.
Tired teens can find it difficult to concentrate, learn and retain new information or even stay awake in class.
Too little sleep also might contribute to mood swings.
Most teens need about nine hours of sleep a night — and sometimes more — to maintain optimal daytime alertness.
But few teens actually get that much sleep regularly, thanks to factors such as extracurricular activities, homework, television, social media and use of computers and other electronic gadgets.
The 24-hour circadian rhythm (our natural awake/sleep cycle) becomes increasingly delayed throughout puberty making adolescents more susceptible to becoming “evening types” or “night owls”.
During adolescence, increased alertness occurs later in the evening, making it difficult to initiate sleep at a reasonable hour.
As a result, the adolescent has “time to fill” late at night. This time is spent doing homework, casual work, or socialising, as well as reading or watching television.
A more recent phenomena among teens is the increased usage of video games (especially simulated survival based games such as Call of Duty & the Grand Theft Auto series). Unfortunately, most of these are very stimulating and can themselves promote late-night alertness.
Emerging evidence suggests that playing video games or scanning/interacting on social media before bedtime may be a particularly disruptive pre-sleep activity for adolescents.
The problem with poor sleep is how you feel when you are awake, usually cranky and moody (traits that are already very apparent in most teens)
So what to do about this? Here are few simple guidelines to help your teen get a better night’s sleep.
* Know when to unplug.
Make their bedroom a quiet place, free from as many electronic devices as possible.
Research has shown that individuals who abstain from using electronic devices an hour before bed have not just longer sleep but much better quality of sleep. Blue light emitting from these gadgets stimulates the brain and inhibits melatonin production – the hormone you need to sleep.
* Get them active.
Regular exercise helps them sleep more soundly, as well as improving their general health.
Teenagers should be aiming for at least 60 minutes every day of moderate to intense physical activity.
*Reduce caffeine intake.
Suggest that your teenager drinks less caffeine (contained in drinks such as cola, tea and coffee). Too much caffeine not only decreases the amount of sleep, it also limits them from falling into a deep & healthy sleep. Try and have a rule of no caffeine-containing drinks after 4-5pm.
Encourage your teen to wind down at night with a warm shower, a book or other relaxing activities.
Ensure a good sleep environment – a room that is dark, cool, quiet, safe and comfortable.
A chat with your teen about their day or exam worries will help put their problems into perspective and help them to sleep better and ease any anxiety.
These tips are not just for teens. All of us could benefit from better sleeping patterns. Recent evidence suggests adults must get at least 8-9 ½ hours of un-disturbed sleep per night to perform best at our daily tasks.
The next in the series of articles will deal with teenage nutrition.
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