Everyone needs to sleep, and teenaged bodies especially need to get enough sleep to keep up with the developments and changes that take place during this time. But there is a multitude of factors, including certain teen sleep disorders, that often keep young adults from getting as much sleep as they need.
Busy schedules, various worries, and distractions play a part, but sometimes the cause of sleeplessness is more serious. Sometimes teens suffer from sleep disorders that keep them from getting the rest that they need.
Take a look at some of the more common teen sleep disorders and their causes to find out what you can do it ensure that your teen is getting enough rest.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is what it’s called when a person has difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
Addressing insomnia can be tricky because it usually requires getting to the bottom of the cause of insomnia.
Once the underlying cause goes away, insomnia usually does as well. But there are many possible causes of insomnia, and sometimes those causes aren’t obvious.
Causes of Insomnia
Sometimes insomnia has a physical cause, like pain from an injury or discomfort from an illness. Everyone has probably had the experience of trying to fall asleep when you have a stuffy nose or a heavy cough from a cold and can’t breathe easily. This type of insomnia is usually short-lived – it goes away when the pain or discomfort goes away.
Insomnia can also be caused by a sleeping environment that’s uncomfortable – a room that’s too hot, a bed that’s too lumpy, a light shining through a window that can’t be easily shut out or ignored.
A very common cause of insomnia is stress. Any type of stress could be causing your teen to lose sleep, from worries about getting into a good college to relationship troubles or conflicts with friends.
Insomnia can also feed on itself. A teen who didn’t sleep well last night might worry that they’ll have the same problem tonight and that they’ll be tired and off their game tomorrow, and that worry can prevent them from falling asleep easily, even when they’re tired.
How to Treat Insomnia
One way to address insomnia is with good sleep hygiene. That means making sure that the bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet, that the bed is comfortable, and that possible distractions from sleep – like phones or other electronics – are turned off or placed out of sight.
It can also help to make sure that your teen only uses their bed for sleeping – not for doing homework or chatting on their phone. This will help their brain associate lying in the bed with sleeping.
Getting plenty of exercise during the day, eating well, and meditating can also help your teen get back to sleep.
Sleeping pills and medications that promote drowsiness are usually not a good way to overcome insomnia in the long-term. If your teen’s insomnia lasts for a month or more, they may need to see a doctor for a more in-depth examination.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
If you’ve ever shared a bedroom with a snorer, you probably think of snoring as something that disrupts your sleep, not theirs. But the truth is that snorers often aren’t getting good sleep, and snoring is an indication of that.
What’s more, snoring can be a sign of a more serious problem – obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the sleeper’s airway narrows during sleep, preventing their lungs from filling fully with oxygen. When the sleeper can’t take a full breath, their brain sends a signal to their body to wake up, allowing them to resume normal breathing.
The sleeper may not remember waking – often it takes just a few seconds to fall back to sleep and the momentary wakefulness is forgotten. But this cycle prevents the sleeper from reaching the deepest levels of sleep, and as a result, they feel tired the next morning, even though they believe that they slept through the night.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
There are many ways to treat sleep apnea, from dental devices designed to help open the airway to CPAP machines that push oxygen directly into the lungs.
If your teen is a snorer who frequently complains of feeling tired after a full night’s sleep, they should be evaluated for sleep apnea by a doctor.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is another common cause of sleeplessness in teens. GERD is when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, creating heartburn.
Usually, symptoms of GERD are worse when the sufferer is lying down than when they’re upright, which is why it creates sleep disturbances. Even if the sleeper doesn’t necessarily feel the heartburn in their sleep, the sensation can disrupt the sleep cycle. And often, severe heartburn will wake the sleeper up, or prevent them from getting to sleep in the first place.
How to Treat GERD
Teens who suffer from heartburn at night can try several things to prevent it. Eating earlier in the evening, so their stomach isn’t still full when they go to bed, can help. Sleeping with their head propped up on several pillows, instead of flat, can also be helpful.
However, if your teen has GERD and not just simple heartburn, they will probably need medication to control it so that they can sleep peacefully.
If your teen frequently complains about heartburn that keeps them awake or wakes them up at night, they probably need to be evaluated by a doctor.
Your teen has a lot going on between their schoolwork, their social life, and their other hobbies and obligations. They need a good night’s sleep in order to be able to perform at their best the next day.
Teen sleep disorders can lead to difficulty concentrating, learning, and making decisions. It can also contribute to problems like forgetfulness, behavioral problems, illness, and even acne.
As a parent, it’s important to keep an eye on your teen’s sleep habits and intervene if they don’t seem to be getting enough sleep.