Sleep Problems: Spot Them In Teenagers

Staying up late is almost a rite of passage for teens. Many experts point out that teens’ internal sleep cycles actually change, making them more into night owls than they used to be (or might be in the future). That doesn’t mean they need less sleep, though – sources say teens should get at least nine hours a night. But how many actually do?

Because late nights are considered so normal for teens, many parents might not recognize sleep deprivation in their teen. Here are some tips on how to recognize it, as well as ways you can help.

1. Poor performance in sports and/or schoolwork can result from lack of sleep. Your teen’s grades may slip, or he/she may not do as well on the field during practice or games.

2. Changes in appetite may signal sleep deprivation. Your teen may begin gaining weight, as being deprived of sleep is said to bring on carbohydrate cravings. Other changes can occur, too, such as a lack of appetite.

3. Irritability may seem like normal teenage angst, but sleep deprivation can make this worse. Parents should pay particular attention if the irritability comes out of nowhere or is uncharacteristic. The same goes for overall moodiness, which may be a part of being a teen or may signal lack of sleep.

4. Depression can result from teens not getting enough sleep. Teens are prone to depression anyway; they are undergoing all sorts of major changes. But sleep deprivation can make it much worse, and harder to cope with existing depression.

How Can You Help?

As a parent, there are some things you can do to help your teen get the sleep he or she needs.

* Remove media from your teen’s bedroom, such as televisions, telephones, mobile devices, and computers. If removal is not practical, then you can try implementing a strict “off time” for these devices. Experts say that music is okay, as long as it is calming.

* Consider melatonin supplements, which are recommended by some experts. If your teen does take these, they are best taken about six hours before bedtime, sources say.

* Calming teas like chamomile can help, too. This has the opposite effect of that favorite of teen substances: caffeine. Make sure caffeine is restricted after noon.

* Set a schedule that does not drastically change on the weekends. “Sleeping in” on Saturday may be a welcome respite for teens, but it may make Monday and Tuesday excruciating. Instead, keep the same basic schedule seven days a week, with perhaps allowing a one-hour sleep-in or stay-up on weekends.