Vampire Hours: What's Keeping Teens Up at Night
September 11, 2019
Your child’s teenage years are perhaps some of the busiest of their lives. School becomes more demanding, activities stack up, social circles grow and their bodies begin to change. While their schedules are full, their sleep often suffers.
“Cumulatively, teenagers could end up eight hours sleep deprived by the end of the school week,” said Tim Tesmer, MD, CHI Health Clinic ear, nose and throat specialist. “The lack of adequate sleep time affects concentration, mood, wakefulness, poor school performance and poor athletic performances.”
Dr. Tesmer said extreme lack of sleep can also have far reaching effects, contributing to feelings of anxiety and depression.
To perform their best, teens need more sleep than young children and adults. Through these formative years, Dr. Tesmer said a little more than nine hours of rest each night is ideal.
“The developing brain that’s undergoing a lot of hormonal shifts needs more time to rest and regenerate,” he said.
To ensure your teen is getting enough sleep, Dr. Tesmer said the best course of action is to develop a routine and stick with it on the weekends.
“This helps your body get into a regular rhythm,” he said. “If it’s not possible to maintain a routine on the weekends, take an afternoon nap.”
Getting enough sleep is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to a healthy teen. Another challenge is making sure that sleep is restful.
“When you’re looking at blue lights right before bed, it decreases the amount of melatonin, increases our arousal and turns our brain back on because it’s almost like it’s mimicking daylight,” said Aaron Robinson, MD. “Then, it’s harder to fall asleep and when you do fall asleep, it’s less restful because you have less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.”
Dr. Robinson, a CHI Health Clinic ear, nose and throat specialist, consistently talks with teens about sleep hygiene and blue lights before bed. He said any type of screen can contribute to a restless night.
“The worst thing you can do is have a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom,” Dr. Robinson said. “Reading a book before bed is different because it’s not stimulating visual receptors that make the melatonin stop secreting.”
Recommendations for healthy rest:
- Screens – Avoid 1-2 hours before bedtime
- Food – Avoid before bedtime
- Lights – Use yellow- or orange-toned bulbs for nightstands to mimic sunset hues
- Supplements – Take melatonin to help initiate feelings of sleepiness if challenges persist