It seems like teenagers are on one end or the other on the sleep spectrum.
Either they are constantly sleeping, or they never want to shut their eyes.
I got this question from a concerned mother on Instagram about her sons that are on Team No-Sleep:
“Could you PLEASE inform my teenage boys that sleep is important – even if you’re gaming for multiple hours?”
Well, I can try.
Here’s a bit of an insight about sleep’s effects on teenage development – and ways to have the conversation about working on it with your kids.
Kids are more sleep deprived than adults in America.
The unfortunate reality is that children (or adolescent children – puberty age through college) are more sleep deprived than the adults in America.
Taking it further, the average sleep deprivation in adults has decreased in just the 10 years that I’ve been studying this stuff.
That means the teenagers who are sleep deprived now are even worse off than what you remember from when you were that age.
Sleep deprivation causes some huge physiological effects when we don’t sleep enough:
- Increased inflammation
- Immune system is compromised
- Cognition is decreased
- Mood is changed
…basically, it affects everything in your body to some extent.
Any time you’re not placing an effort on getting quality sleep, you’re basically compromising your performance in anything you want to be good at.
Teenage Hormone Shifts & Deep Sleep
When you’re young – especially during adolescence, you’re experiencing a massive growth period.
This is referred to as an “anabolic” phase of life. Anything that promotes growth in the body is anabolic.
Adolescence and/or puberty is the most anabolic period of any human’s life. This is the fastest you’ll ever grow at once over such a short period of time.
In order for this growth to happen, though, the body needs to have enough time in an extremely relaxed state to work on itself.
That said, about 90% of our anabolic processes in the body take place during deep sleep.
So, if you’re interfering with your deep sleep, you’re interfering with the growth of some part of your body.
And as a teenager, this just so happens to be the time that everything is growing – your brain, your body, your emotional intelligence, all of it.
The functionality of all those growing parts will be hindered if you don’t get enough sleep, too.
School performance, physical ability in sports, focusing on playing an instrument well, and even how well you do socially are all affected by how much sleep you’re getting during this period of life.
How much sleep do teenagers need?
It sounds like a big range here, but teenagers (especially those in the full swing of puberty) need something like 9-12 hours of sleep each night.
Read that again: the minimum amount of sleep a healthy teenager is getting is 9 hours each night.
The bad part of this statistic right now?
Right now, the average amount of sleep a teenager in America gets is about 7 hours.
That’s only about half of the recommended amount for their age group!
And getting back to the “recreational media” part of our original question – cell phone time, gaming, TV, anything that requires you look at a screen by choice – averages about 8.5 – 9 hours each day.
This means that kids are spending more time choosing to be on their tech devices than they are asleep.
They end up waking up exhausted, thanks to too little sleep and too much time staring at a screen.
Circadian Rhythm in Teens
Here’s another interesting thing: our circadian rhythm changes during adolescence.
While our awake / sleep signals as a small child and during adulthood tend to go with the sun, our body clock shifts back a few hours during puberty.
So when teenagers tell you they’re not tired until late in the night, they’re not lying.
Their desire to be awake goes later in the day, and their desire to be asleep in the morning goes later in the morning.
All of their hormonal shifts are just causing this temporary circadian rhythm shift.
And this is why I believe most schools start way too early for students to be well-rested and ready to learn.
If a kid isn’t feeling tired until 1:00 AM, but he needs to be awake at 6:00 AM to get to school on time, he’s definitely not getting the rest his body and brain need.
How to Help Your Teenager Sleep More & Understand its Importance
As with any sort of lifestyle change in any human, you need to root sleep as something that will lead to your teen accomplishing their goals.
Tie more sleep in with the things they love to do, because it will affect those things.
With my kids, that was sports. They both wanted to be good athletes, so I constantly reminded them that they’ll be shorter and weaker if they didn’t sleep to repair their bodies properly.
If your kid is super academic and wants to get into a great college, their test scores will be worse if they’re not sleeping enough.
If you play an instrument, it’ll take longer to be good and you won’t perform your best without adequate sleep.
Even social skills can be dampened by up to 30% from just one night of sleep deprivation.
All of these things are important for adolescents and young adults. We want connection and the ability to do our best toward our dreams.
Don’t keep shooting yourself in the foot by avoiding one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health.
Sleep for Teenagers: How Important is it?
If there’s just one piece of health that your kid gets down during their teenage years, just get them to sleep more.
As a kid, you’re pretty resilient in other ways: poor diet, lack of exercise, all those things don’t seem to affect you too much.
But when you’re lacking sleep, you’re hindering your performance and development. Plain and simple.
It doesn’t matter your age. If you’re not sleeping enough, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment in one form or another down the road.
If you’re looking to improve the sleep routine of your teenager, check out my new Sleep Remedy Kids supplement.
It’s non-addictive and a safe way to help improve the quality and length of your sleep naturally.
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