Eight hours a night? Nine? A catch up on the weekend? Sleep is something that's so important to every individual, so of course, there are plenty of myths surrounding what's good, what's bad and how much is too much. This battle can sometimes be even more troublesome for teenagers; what with there being so many other important things to be bothered with at that age, sleep is often quite low on the agenda (unless of course it's past midday on a weekend). That's why, in an attempt to dispel said myths, we've put together this blog post to help solve the mysteries of teenage sleep.
How much they need
The amount of sleep needed by a teen is something that's quite individual, but on average, about nine hours usually does the trick. Some may need slightly more than this but overall, teenagers need to get somewhere between eight and ten hours a night.
Different body clocks
Everyone has an inbuilt body clock that reacts to their surroundings. Using daylight, it determines when it's time for your body to sleep, and gives you a boost in the morning when you need to get up. When you've had a lack of sleep, your body clock can be thrown out of sync, which can leave you feeling sleepy at certain times throughout the day - mostly just after lunchtime in adults.
In teenagers, hormones can have a great effect on how their body clocks work, making them different to those of adults. Jim Horne from Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre here explains how while sleeping, a teenager's brain undergoes a reorganisation, particularly while going through puberty. This in turn helps them grow into adults, and is one of the reasons teenagers need more sleep.
That, along with a desire to stay up late, watch TV or socialise with friends, contributes to a delayed body clock.
Consequences of a lack of sleep
Not getting enough sleep can make anyone cranky, and is known to lead to all sorts of problems. But when you're a teenager, the consequences can often be greater.
Lacking enough proper sleep can affect a teenager's ability to learn at school, it can affect their memory and result in poor exam performances. Sleep deprivation also affects concentration, which can extend to all sorts of activities outside of education too, particularly driving and sports.
Not only can sleep have a big impact on the above - it can also make teenagers more susceptible to colds and other illnesses.
How to encourage a better sleeping pattern
As difficult as it may seem to get your teenager up at a certain time each day, and to go to sleep at a similar time, it can actually do wonders for them. Here are a few ways to help teens get more sleep:
- Limit time in front of artificial light sources. Try to reduce the amount of time spent watching TV, or playing games before bed.
- Reduce caffeine. This might include tea, coffee or caffeinated soft drinks.
- Exercise. As well as being good for overall health and fitness, exercising can also aid sleep.
- For more helpful tips, the NHS website features some useful information.