As our adolescents and young adults are heading back to school, whether high school or college, we thought it timely to reflect on the connection between sleep and mental illness. But first, it is important to understand some basic sleep facts as reported by the National Sleep Foundation:
- Sleep is critical to overall health and well-being. It is, in fact, as important as the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.
- Sleep patterns change during adolescence. Generally, an adolescent’s biological clock moves later for both sleeping and waking.
- Teens require 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at their optimum, yet most fail to manage to this level. 15% of teens report achieving 8 hours on school nights.
- Teens also have poor and erratic sleep schedules – often staying up late and sleeping late on weekends which impacts sleep quality.
- Teens often fail to treat many of the displayed sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome and/or sleep apnea.
In a study by the National Sleep Foundation of 1602 adolescents, there were strong correlations between less sleep and depression. Nearly half (46%) showed higher depressive mood scores and were most likely to experience difficulty in falling asleep, having insufficient sleep and 73% of these reported feeling unhappy, hopeless about the future, or feeling depressed.
Sleep deprivation limits the ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. No wonder that our adolescents feel anxious and have difficulty coping with rigorous academic and social challenges in school. Lack of sleep contributes to skin problems and other health issues and may lead to inappropriate behaviors. Yet, though we are all aware of these results, we seem to ignore what might be easy solutions.
Here are a few suggestions that are worthy of sharing with your teen which might help:
- Take some time to decide what needs to change in order to make proper sleep a high priority.
- Avoid pills, drinks, caffeine, chocolate, soda, nicotine, alcohol all which consumed late in the day contribute to sleep difficulties.
- Maintain a cool, dark, and quiet sleeping room.
- It’s best not to engage in eating or drinking late and to refrain from rigorous exercise within a few hours of one’s bedtime.
- Get all homework done early. Don’t wait until the last minute. Refrain from using the television, computer, and other technology in the hour prior to bedtime. Use the hour before sleep to take bath/shower or for easy reading or calming music.
- Establish a sleep routine. Having a set go-to-bed and wake-up time helps ..not staying up past 11 PM and sleeping until 7 AM provides the minimum healthy schedule.
It’s no secret that lack of sleep impacts mood. We suggest that parents and their teens take the time to address this topic. It’s great fodder for discussions that normally don’t cause conflict. Good sleep habits are a critical piece of success in school. We encourage teens to make a proper night’s sleep a priority.
Check out the attached link to a posting on the Child Mind Institute’s Website: