You’ve seen it on television and in the movies, but now it’s happening in your very own home to your very own teens… you’ve got a sleep problem on your hands! While it’s comical to watch the drama of a parent taking extraordinary measures to get their teens out of bed on TV, it’s not an ideal daily routine in everyday life; not to mention, oversleeping in teens is often a clear warning sign that something’s not quite right.
Whether you are a concerned parent, or a teen struggling with the woes of oversleeping, it’s important to understand what may be causing or contributing to teen sleep problems.
Reasons Teens Sleep So Much
Several elements may be coming into play as to why teens sleep so much. They can include the following.
While waking up on Monday morning is often a struggle, even for the average adult, this tends to be even more difficult in the teen years. While it’s easy to equate this to laziness, studies have shown that teens naturally function best in the nighttime hours, due to the changes of the circadian rhythm that typically occur with puberty.
The onslaught of hormonal changes occurring in teens greatly affects their internal clock, making typical early school start times difficult for teens to adhere to. Many teens often don’t feel alert until the middle of the school day, or even late into the evening hours. This often leads to teens experiencing trouble falling asleep, and not feeling refreshed when they wake in the early hours.
Changing Circadian Rhythm
Changes to the circadian rhythm are often the main culprit when it comes to teen sleep problems. As mentioned, doctors and sleep specialists alike have discovered that many teens experience a body clock shift that occurs around the time they reach puberty.
This shift causes melatonin that was formerly being released around the 9:00pm or 10:00pm hour in childhood, not to be released until the 12:00am or 1:00am hour. This natural shift ties directly into sleep issues brought on by early school start times, leading to a severe lack of sleep, and teens feeling exhausted.
Physical Growth Spurts
Along with numerous studies on the extreme shifts in a teen's circadian rhythm after puberty, sleep specialists and doctors have discovered that teens tend to need significantly more sleep than an adult or child. While many teens are using their energy toward school, socializing, and hobbies, their rapidly growing minds and bodies are utilizing the same energy resources to aid in their growth.
Due to these rapid and significant changes, both the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and National Sleep Foundation concur that teens should at least be getting from 8 to 10 hours of sleep nightly.
It is not uncommon for teens to experience negative mental health symptoms as they age. One of the most common mental health issues amongst teens is anxiety. While anxiety can be brought forward by outside issues — such as school, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and other aspects of teen life — anxiety greatly affects sleep patterns, and can lead to a more extreme sleep disorder, such as insomnia.
Oftentimes, not getting enough sleep can lead to worsening anxiety, as well as additional mental health issues, such as depression. It is important to communicate with your teen. Watch for any signs that they may be experiencing poor mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, and consult a trusted doctor if necessary.
Besides the possibility of mental health issues in teens, an underlying physical issue may be contributing to poor sleep habits in teens. One very commonly overlooked issue is obstructive sleep apnea. This issue can be brought on due to a deviated septum, abnormal tonsil or adenoid size, as well as having a high BMI.
An issue, such as sleep apnea, may cause your teen to wake to feel exhausted, even after getting their recommended nine hours of sleep. This is because issues with their breathing are interrupting their sleep pattern, and interrupted sleep is not good sleep. No matter how many hours of sleep your teen is getting, it’s likely they are not well-rested if they’re experiencing a sleep disorder such as this. It is important to consult a doctor if you believe your teen has a sleep disorder.
Other Issues and Possibilities
While it’s possible your tired teens are simply experiencing the typical woes of puberty, there are many other possibilities that could be contributing to your teen's poor sleep habits that are important to look out for. Along with anxiety and depression, it is vital to look out for any emotional problems in teens that could lead to suicidal thoughts in extreme cases. Bullying, drug use, and mental and physical overexertion can easily contribute to sleep disorders and emotional problems in teens.
Additional sleep disorders, such as insomnia, nightmares, and narcolepsy could be present in your teen. While good sleep hygiene will help with your teen's overall well-being, it is vital to get treatment from a doctor for any number of these mental or physical issues.
How Much Sleep do Teens Need?
While it may seem excessive to many parents, studies show that teens need significantly more sleep than most would assume. Due to rapid mental and physical growth, as well as their shifting circadian rhythm, it is recommended that teens get anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep, with nine hours of sleep typically being the ideal number.
Why Teens Need More Sleep
Being a teen is tough enough, and many teens are struggling even harder than necessary due to a severe lack of sleep. While it is common knowledge that babies sleep excessively due to rapid growth, growth occurs at a similar rate in teens, causing their bodies to use more energy than they did prior to puberty. For this reason, it is imperative that teens get more sleep than what is typically expected in an adult.
Sleep Hygiene Tips for Teens
While teens experience the trials and tribulations of high school, sleep issues don’t have to be a contributing stressor. While having tired teens is common, if you’re noticing excessive daytime sleepiness in your teens, it is important to start by consulting a doctor, psychologist, or sleep medicine clinic for proper medical treatment. Aside from professional help, there are a number of things you and your teen can do to develop good sleep hygiene, and experience a good night’s sleep every night.
Get Outdoor Light
Getting sunlight and fresh air is vital for everyone, especially teens. A daily half-hour walk outside can do wonders for teens struggling to get on a regular sleep schedule. Extracurricular activities, such as outdoor sports, jogging, and biking come with countless additional health benefits as well.
Restrict Blue Light in the Bedroom
While it has become necessary for the modern teen to utilize electronics in their academic and social lives, the blue light that emits from phones, computers, and tablets can cause issues falling asleep. Before a teen goes to bed, he or she should set a time that begins about an hour before to avoid electronics.
Watch Late Day or Evening Caffeine Consumption
It is common knowledge that caffeine consumption often interrupts sleep. If your teen is having trouble falling asleep, the caffeine in their late-night diet may be irritating the issue. Try shifting over to decaf beverages, or avoid caffeine intake by the early afternoon.
Avoid Long Naps
When a teen is struggling with feeling exhausted, it’s common for them to take long naps either after school or during weekends. While it will take time to form a consistent sleep schedule with your teen, and naps may be necessary, try limiting naps to about 20-30 minutes.
Aside from outdoor activity, physical activity, in general, is vital in developing good sleep habits. Find a physical activity that your teen enjoys, and encourage them to do this for at least 30 minutes daily. Since weather may not always permit things like walks or outdoor sports, workout videos, cleaning, or gyms are great options to keep your teen active.
Sleep on a Comfortable Mattress
While it may seem like a no-brainer, it is wildly difficult to get a good night’s sleep if you’re not comfortable! Ask your teen if they’re comfortable when they go to bed. If not, it may be time for a new mattress, like the Latex For Less mattress, of course!