Most teens seem to find a nocturnal rhythm. They sleep all day and go out at night. Even on school nights, if teens aren’t supervised by their parents, they will likely stay up late listening to music, texting, chatting with friends, or spending time on social media. Getting a good night’s sleep is not on their mind. They’re focused on fun and friends.
However, sleep is important for teens! In fact, it’s so important they need more hours of sleep than adults, who usually need about 8 hours of rest. Teens, on the other hand, need at least 9 or 9 1/2. The National Sleep Foundation points out that, for teens, there are some obvious consequences to not getting the right amount of sleep:
- Limited ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems.
- Forgetfulness with names, numbers, appointments, and completing assignments.
- Development of acne and other skin problems.
- Aggressive and inappropriate behavior.
- Poor eating habits and possible weight gain
- Possible increased use of alcohol and nicotine
- Stress-related illnesses
- Danger of not using equipment safely and driving while feeling tired
In addition to these possible consequences, there is a relationship between mental health and the amount of sleep a teen gets. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center tracked the sleep habits of over 4,000 adolescents for one year. What they found is a strong reciprocal relationship between sleep and the psychological health of teens. The study indicated that those teens that were already depressed were four times as likely to lose more sleep. These findings were published in the journal Sleep in February of 2014.
Major Depressive Disorder is considered to be a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. It’s common for teens with depression to experience a change in sleep patterns (over sleeping and under sleeping). This symptom of depression can exist for anyone regardless of age, but one study found that for 12 year olds and 16 year olds, sleep disturbances were linked to self-reported depression in adolescence. The relationship between mental health and sleep indicates that establishing a sleep schedule for your teen can support them, especially if they are already depressed.
Along these lines, sleep is often used as a means to help someone experiencing depression but whose medication isn’t having an effect. In these cases, a therapist might explore in detail a teen’s quality of sleep in order to make changes and create a sleep schedule that supports physical and mental health. Typically, depression requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication. However, the exploration of a teen’s sleep pattern may be included in the treatment.
And parents: be aware that a teen who is highly active might require rest at some point in the day. Perhaps after football practice or after another after-school activity, your teen wants to take a nap. It’s perfectly fine to let your teen rest, as long as they’re not sleeping too much.
Parents, because of the relationship between sleep and psychological health you may want to encourage your teen to maintain a sleep schedule. Make sure they are getting up at the same time every day (even the weekend) and going to be at the same time. This will help ensure that they are getting the sleep they need.