Teenagers and Sleep

Sleep research suggests that a teenager needs between nine and 10 hours of sleep every night. Yet most adolescents only get about seven or eight hours. Some get less.

Regularly not getting enough sleep leads to chronic sleep deprivation. This can have dramatic effects on a teenager's life, including reduced academic performance at school.

Causes of sleep deprivation

  • Hormonal time shift - puberty hormones shift the teenager's body clock forward by about one or two hours, making them sleepier one to two hours later. Yet, while the teenager falls asleep later, early school starts don't allow them to sleep in. This nightly 'sleep debt' leads to chronic
  • Hectic after-school schedule -homework, sport, part-time work and social commitments can cut into a teenager's sleeping time.
  • Leisure activities -the lure of stimulating entertainment such as television, the internet and computer gaming can keep a teenager out of bed.
  • Light exposure - light cues the brain to stay awake. In the evening, lights from television, mobile phones and computers can prevent adequate production of melatonin, the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) responsible for sleep.
  • Vicious circle - insufficient sleep causes a teenager's brain to become more active. An over-aroused brain is less able to fall asleep.
  • Social attitude - in Western culture, keeping active is valued more than sleep.
  • Sleep disorders - sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnoea, can affect how much sleep a teenager gets.
  • Some effects of sleep deprivation: concentration difficulties, mentally 'drifting off ' in class, shortened attention span, lack of enthusiasm, moodiness and aggression, depression, slower physical reflexes, reduced sporting performance, reduced academic performance, increased number of 'sick days' from school because of tiredness.

Preventing sleep deprivation

Some suggestions include:

  • choose a relaxing bedtime routine; for example, have a bath and a hot milky drink before bed.
  • Avoid using mobile phone, computer, loud music, homework, or any other activity that gets your mind racing for about an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep your room dark at night. The brain's sleep-wake cycle is largely set by light received through the eyes. In the morning, expose your eyes to lots of light to help wake up your brain.
  • Avoid having any food or drink that contains caffeine after dinnertime. This includes coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate.
  • Avoid recreational drugs (including alcohol, tobacco and cannabis) as they can cause you to have broken and poor quality sleep.
  • Do the same bedtime routine every night for at least four weeks to make your brain associate this routine with going to sleep.
  • Avoid staying up late on the weekends. Late nights will undo your hard work.
  • Remember that even 30 minutes of extra sleep each night on a regular basis makes a big difference.
  • See your doctor if self-help techniques don't increase your nightly sleep quota.

For further information go to: www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au

www.sleepoz.org.au

Jenny Hill
College nurse
Reference: Better Health Channel