You hear it all the time – sleep is important. However, majority of teenagers do not get enough sleep, and there are serious negative impacts of sleep deprivation in adolescents.
Research says adolescents need between eight and ten hours of sleep each night in order to function at their best. However, less than 20% of teens report getting this amount. Some teens get seven hours, while others are only getting three or four hours.
This means about 80% of teens are sleep deprived, making it an epidemic in our country.Sleep deprivation can impact all areas of a teenager’s life negatively.
Sleep Deprivation Impacts Teen Mental Health
Remember that time your teen stayed up most of the night watching movies? The next morning, they were grumpy and had major attitude. They had trouble staying focused and were more easily brought to tears, or anger.
What if your teen hasn’t gotten good sleep in months or years? Their mental health problems would grow and start interfering with their daily functioning. They would experience an increase in anxiety and depression, or worse.
One study of 28,000 high school students found that with every hour of sleep lost, there was a 38% increase in students feeling depressed or hopeless. They even found an increase in suicide attempts associated with teens who got less sleep. A teen’s mental health is connected to their physical health, and sleep impacts both.
Sleep Impacts Teen Physical Health
When you don’t sleep well, you are more likely to crave unhealthy foods and less likely to want to engage in exercise. This is the same for your teen. When sleep deprived, teens drag through their day just trying to stay awake, eating junk food and drinking way too many caffeine drinks.
These reactions to sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. Researchers in a couple of studies found that teens who do not get the recommended amounts of sleep by the age of 16 are more likely become obese by the time they turn 21. Helping your teen get good sleep now can prevent them from a lifetime of negative health issues.
Sleep Impacts Learning
The teenage brain is easy to influence, especially the frontal cortex that helps you make good decisions, stay organized, and solve problems. These seemingly simple tasks become harder for teens to complete when they are sleep deprived.
A teen’s memory, focus and concentration are also affected when they get too little sleep. They are easily distracted, making it hard to complete assignments or pay attention to the teacher. They may struggle to retain important information, like instructions from the teacher.
These types of behaviors can come across as behavior problems to some teachers, leading to your teen getting in trouble and receiving consequences. However, there are more specific behavior problems associated with sleep deprivation in teens.
Sleep Impacts Behavior
Studies have shown there is a link between risky behaviors and lack of sleep in teens. Risky behaviors can include:
- Drinking alcohol
- Abusing drugs
- Having unprotected sex
Other than risky behaviors, lack of sleep can cause teens to be clumsy. Athletic performances are hindered and put your teen at risk for an injury. This clumsiness or slowed reactions can happen when your teen is driving too. Therefore, it is your responsibility to prevent your teen from driving on too little sleep.
Sleep deprivation makes it hard for teens to control their impulses, verbally and physically. This, with a more aggressive mood, is a formula for trouble. If you don’t like teen drama, make sure they get enough sleep. Everything becomes more dramatic when a teen is not well rested.
How to Help Your Teen Suffering from Sleep Deprivation
The short answer is to make sure they sleep more than eight hours each night. But you know your teen and you know it isn’t that simple. It’s okay to seek help. In fact, it’s recommended.
1. Find the Cause
The first step in helping your teen is to find out why they are sleep deprived and fix it. Your teen may have a medical condition interfering with their sleep. They may be having hormonal shifts that affect their circadian rhythm.
They may even have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Other causes can include staying on their technological devices too long. Their room may be too bright, reducing the amount of melatonin that is much needed for sleep.
Some teens worry and feel stressed, causing their minds to race, preventing them from sleeping.
2. Seek Treatment
Check out to teen treatment facilities in your area. They have counselors who can address all the teen issues created by sleep deprivation. They have life skills coaches, mental health therapists, medical doctors, physical activity leaders, and even family therapists.
It takes a therapeutic village to help teens eliminate negative behaviors and replace them with positive habits that can benefit them for a lifetime. These habits are called sleep hygiene.
3. Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene involves the timing of sleep, as well as positive actions your teen can take each night to get the best sleep. Actions like brushing their teeth, turning off electronics, meditation, and even bathing at the same time each night can improve sleep hygiene.
This is something you can do with your teen, as positive sleep hygiene helps adults too.
Other Ways Treatment Can Help
Specialists can help you create and maintain a regular sleep schedule of when you go to sleep and wake up. Weekdays can be a little different than weekdays, but not too much. Device addiction is a real thing affecting teens. Some teens want to spend all their spare time on their phone, gaming systems, televisions, and social media. It can be hard to get them to stop at night. They may even sneak to use their devices without your knowledge.
Your counselor can help your teen break these habits, as well as any other negative, risky habits. And finally, they can refer you to the right doctors if it’s found your teen has a medical condition. When your teen has a problem, it can feel overwhelming trying to help them overcome issues by yourself. With the help of teen treatment centers, you are not alone.
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Founder and Chief Clinical Officer of Paradigm Austin, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.