Sleep research suggests that an adolescent needs between 9-10 sleep every night and school-age children need 10-11 hours to be physically, mentally and cognitively healthy.
Regularly not getting enough sleep, poor sleep quality and irregular sleep patterns can lead to sleep deprivation which has very real implications for their physical and emotional health as well as reduced academic performance at school.
Some of the reasons why teens and older children do not get enough sleep are…
- Puberty hormonal time shift for adolescents where their body clock moves forward by one or 2 hours, making them sleepier one or two hours later.
- Busy after school schedule with homework, sport and social activities.
- Stimulating online entertainment with games, social media and television.
- Light exposure from screen-based devices which prevent the adequate production of melatonin which is responsible for sleep patterns.
- A brain that is ‘always on’ with ideas, worries and life issues. Social media is a great place to find new sources of anxiety!
According to Better Health Victoria, the effects of chronic [ongoing] sleep deprivation include:
- Concentration difficulties
- Mentally ‘drifting off’ in class
- Shortened attention span
- Memory impairment
- Poor decision making
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Moodiness and aggression
- Risk-taking behaviour
- Slower physical reflexes
- Clumsiness, which may result in physical injuries
- Reduced sporting performance
- Reduced academic performance
- Increased number of ‘sick days’ from school because of tiredness
According to one report. ‘Teens aren’t likely to change habits unless they recognise more sleep makes them feel better.’
While experts maintain there is no single cause for sleep deprivation in teens, technology can
certainly aggravate a teen’s ability to obtain a sufficient, healthy quantity of quality sleep.
The general advice emphasises the need to turn off all electronic devices a minimum of an hour before trying to get to sleep. A paediatrician, Dr Van Gilder goes further and suggests ‘planning ahead so that homework that needs to be done on a screen is completed by early evening and “off-screen” work is saved for later at night. That also means no “unwinding” by going on Facebook or YouTube.’
How can I help my child sleep better?
- Agree with them reasonable and consistent bedtimes- for weekdays and weekends. Consistency is key.
- Most teenagers like to have a ‘lie-in’ at weekends – limiting the getting up time to only an hour or two later than weekdays will ensure they can get into a stable sleep routine.
- Help them to get into a routine of 30-60 minutes ‘quiet time’ before bed – no TV, texting, homework or computer use.
- Getting some fresh air, gentle exercise and daylight each day will help them to sleep at night.
- They should avoid caffeine and heavy exercise for four hours before bed, as these can cause problems getting to sleep.
- Encourage them to do their worrying before getting into bed – perhaps by writing a “to-do list” for the following day earlier in the evening.