The sharp decline in adolescent mental health over the last 10 years is alarming and should be a concern to everyone, whether or not they have kids. Two key factors that contribute to this are chronic sleep deprivation and technology. The two go hand and hand of course. Below I’m going to share some important and interesting facts about sleep and adolescence. I also included a checklist of specific things you and your teen can implement to help get a little bit more shut eye. I recommend sharing this with your teen.
Adolescence is a distinct and critical stage of life. Your child’s ability to have fulfilling relationships, experience true happiness and success over their life span largely depends on the development of their prefrontal cortex. The PFC is responsible for planning ahead, reigning in impulses and managing emotions. These skills are far more important than IQ as we get older. This part of their brain is going through the equivalent of a massive house remodel. This is why their behavior is so inconsistent and messy. Progress on the remodel happens during sleep. The more sleep that occurs during adolescence, the faster and better the remodel will turn out in their 20’s.
I’m guessing you’d agree that your teen (and you as well) would benefit from more sleep. Unfortunately we both know it’s not so simple. Sometimes they’re just not tired until later, other times they fall asleep but then wake up and can’t get back to sleep. Below are some interesting and important things to know.
Facts And Anecdotes About Adolescent Sleep
- Adolescents require 9+ hours of sleep to optimize their development and growth.
- Adolescents’ biological clock is different than ours. Starting at 10-12, melatonin (sleep hormone) doesn’t start getting released until about 2 hours later than ours. So when we’re getting sleepy, they may be getting revved up. This is why most teens aren’t able to get to sleep before 11 or 1130. This melatonin also stays in their system longer which is why they can have such a hard time waking up early. When we wake up, melatonin is generally out of our system. When they wake up early for school, it’s still in their system. A teen waking up at 7:30 is like an adult waking up at 530.
- Driving after only 4-5 hours of sleep is the same as driving with an alcohol level at the legal limit.
- Research has found that high school students perform better on cognitive tests and in classes overall that are later in the day.
“Sleep is critical to maintain focus and alertness, to repair and maintain brain cells, and to clear out toxic metabolites.”
Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.
- The blue light emitted from screens reduces melatonin production by up to 22%.
- The impact of arousing input like notifications and videos often create a state of feeling “wired and tired”. This could end up resulting in a loss of an additional two hours of sleep.
- Lebron James sleeps 8-9 hours a night. On a recent podcast he said, “sleep is the best way for your body and mind to physically and emotionally recover.”
- In some sleep studies, every 20 minutes of additional sleep makes a positive difference in the areas of memory, retention, mood and academic performance.
Below are examples of good sleep hygiene. Try picking one or two to start.
- Sleep in a pitch dark room. The darker the better. Put away screens 45 minutes before sleep.
- Exercise during the day.
- Avoid large meals and caffeine several hours before bed.
- Reserve bed for sleeping only. Don’t do homework or hangout there.
- Practice meditation/mindfulness before bed.
- Journal about 3 new things you’re grateful for and why right before bed.
- Keep phone in another room or at least on the other side of your room.
- Maintain a similar sleep schedule all week.
- Have a routine before bed (shower, put away clothes, read/journal).
- Use a noise machine with calming sounds.
- Take slow deep breaths through your belly.
- If awake and can’t go back to sleep, sit up and read a book, use mindfulness app. that’s offline Don’t Go Online.
- Keep room temperature to 67-69 degrees.