Recent studies confirm what you probably already suspected. Many adolescents don’t get enough sleep. Only 15% of teens are getting the required 8-10 hrs. per night according to the National Sleep Foundation. But did you know that sleep deprivation in adolescents is having serious health and psychological consequences?
Teens who are sleep deprived are at significantly greater risk for depression and bipolar disorder. This effect seems to be most pronounced in those who already suffer from anxiety. Even teens who are in good mental health suffer from increased psychological distress compared to peers with good sleep habits. In one study, psychological distress increased by 5% for every hour of sleep lost.
Sleep deprived teens are also at greater risk for obesity. Those who sleep less than 8 hours per night consume more calories and get more of their calories from snacking on carbohydrates. This may be in an effort to compensate for poor energy due to lack of sleep.
What can be done? First of all, encourage your teenager to “unplug”. Instant messaging and texting into the early hours of the morning is a common problem in adolescents. Talk to your child about a cut-off point. For example, if homework is not finished by 11pm lights go out anyway. Try to work with your child’s schedule so that school work can be completed during reasonable hours. Remind your child that sleeping in late on the weekends does not compensate adequately for sleep lost during the week and may even interfere with the ability to fall asleep at night. If you show your child that sleep is a priority it just might rub off improving your child’s health and happiness.
Kate Mini, MD