Humans spend about one-third of their life asleep. Sleep is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. Despite people thinking of sleep as a time of rest, a lot of important activity occurs in the brain and body during sleep. The quality of the one-third of our lives spent asleep, greatly influences the quality of the two-thirds we are awake. Without adequate sleep our health, resilience and performance is greatly impacted.
Sleep requirements do not change much from primary school age to teens however there is one change that does occur. The hormone melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy, is secreted later at night during puberty than in children and adults. This delay temporarily resets their circadian rhythm (which is like an internal biological clock). This means that your teen will want to go to bed later at night and get up later in the morning. A guide for amounts of sleep required by age is included below.
A guide to hours of sleep/ night:
Sleep deprivation affects children’s physical growth, immune system and plays a key role in weight gain. You may notice effects related to these areas, along with an increase in headaches and darkness under their eyes.
Children and Teenagers who are sleep deprived have trouble managing emotions. They may have mood swings and seem irritable, anxious or depressed. They are more likely to suffer from negative body image and low self-esteem.
Sleep deprivation affects decision making capacity and has a negative effect on relationships. The effects on certain parts of the brain also results in increased clumsiness and risk of accidents.
Most of the population lack energy when they don’t get enough sleep. Paradoxically younger children can exhibit symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), becoming excitable, hyperactive, disagreeable and engaging in extreme behaviours like tantrums or aggression. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, when the real culprit is chronic sleep deprivation
Increased stimulant use – to deal with tiredness and drowsiness caused by sleep deprivation, some teenagers use alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and some illicit stimulant drugs which can make things worse.
Causes for insufficient hours of quality sleep in children and teenagers fall under 3 areas: habits, physical/biological causes and psychological causes.
Many of these habits are influenced by a lack of understanding of the importance of sleep. This combined with a busy lifestyles and the drive to be socially connected means sleep becomes undervalued and a low priority.