Tired Teens

Sleep needs are greater during adolescence than many teens realize

Like adults, teens often stay up too late. Adolescence is a busy time, with full days of school, homework and social activities. Electronic devices such as cell phones and computers, as well as caffeinated beverage consumption, make it even harder to slow down and get to bed.

Teenagers need more sleep than you may think: Jyoti Krishna, MD, Head of Pediatric Sleep at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, says the average teen requires 8.5 to 9 hours each night. While we sleep, our brains are busy performing vital functions to replenish our bodies and mind. Adequate rest is critical for the teen’s physical and intellectual growth and development.

As adults, we know from experience that lack of sleep can make us irritable and less productive. It also can be downright dangerous to drive when drowsy. The same holds true for teenagers. Watch your adolescent for these signs of sleep deprivation:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Tardiness
  • Irritability
  • Low self-confidence
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Impatience
  • Mood swings
  • Impulsivity
  • Falling grades

The remedy for sleep deprivation is, of course, to get more sleep. But it can be hard to get your teen to bed on time if you skimp on sleep. So be a good role model and make sleep a priority for yourself.

Also, discuss the importance of sleep in ways that are meaningful to your teenager, such as how restful sleep improves sports and academic performance. Lack of sleep can make teens more prone to overeating and affect their personalities and social behavior.

In addition, Dr. Krishna recommends the following healthy sleep habits:

  • Encourage your teen to maintain consistent sleep and wake-up times, even on weekends.
  • Limit caffeinated beverages, especially in the evening.
  • Avoid high-energy activities after dinner.
  • Establish a quiet hour before bedtime, with no use of electronic devices.
  • Remove cell phones, computers, video games and televisions from your teen’s bedroom. Texting in bed is a recipe for insomnia. Reading or a warm bath, on the other hand, can help relaxation and bring on sleep.
  • Avoid drowsy driving.

If healthy sleep habits don’t help your teen get adequate rest, visit your pediatrician, since tiredness may have a medical cause as well. As many as 10% of teens may truly suffer from a delayed biological clock problem which causes them to naturally exhibit a “night owl” tendency with delayed sleep and wake times. A consultation with a sleep specialist can determine whether or not your teen has one of several sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs or narcolepsy.

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