Sleep is food for the brain and that old saying which states that ‘everything will look better in the morning’ certainly has a grain of truth in it! Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for your wellbeing; but for adolescents this is often easier said than done! A recent study showed that almost half of 12 year olds get less than 7 hours sleep per night when biologically they really need between 8-10 hours. Insufficient sleep has been shown to have physical effects on both adults and adolescents, lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The emotional effects of not enough sleep can be severe with increased rates of depression and suicidal ideation. It also has a measureable impact on performance. Multiple risk-taking behaviours have been linked to chronic sleep loss in adolescents, including alcohol consumption, substance abuse and serious behaviour problems such as violence and antisocial behaviour.
Some less serious effects of poor sleep, but just as crippling, include feeling moody, cranky and impatient. It makes you more likely to feel bad about yourself, plus you are more likely to make poor decisions, be unable to learn, forget things and fall out with friends. All of these have an impact on performance and productivity, both in school and in the work place plus on your social life.
So, what can you do to get a better night’s sleep? Biology is really working against adolescents; Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is released in adolescents about 2 hours later at night compared to adults, so inevitably their sleep pattern will change but don’t fight it; go with it and if you are a parent you need to understand that your teenager will not be sleepy and want to go to bed at the same time as you do!
No screens for at least an hour before bedtime; the light from them delays the release of Melatonin and makes it more difficult to sleep.
Exercise; not only is it good for fitness it has been proven to improve sleep and also mood.
Get a regular sleep routine – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
As much as possible bed needs to be a place for sleeping (and special cuddles); not a place to catch up on social media or link with friends or do last minute work!
Make sure your bedroom is cool
And if the worst comes to the worst get out that really boring text book or work manual; guaranteed to put you to sleep in 5 minutes!
Owens et al. Association between Short Sleep Duration and Risk Behaviour Factors in Middle School Students - Sleep Research Society Volume 40, Issue 1 1.1.17