Advice For Parents

Why Are More Teens Sleeping Less?

July 27, 2022   By Danielle Herrera

Are your teenage children staying up all night on their laptops or mobile phones? Then, they likely suffer from sleepiness, moodiness, and behavioural problems during the daytime. And they’re not the only ones suffering from lack of sleep because many other teenagers have been suffering the same effects.

More and more adolescents are cutting down on their sleep hours and suffering the consequences. Sleep experts point to one specific culprit: smartphones. Extended and accessible screen time mainly contributes to teenage chronic sleep deprivation.

What can you do to convince teenagers that sleep is king?

Sleep is for the weak…

Young ones today tend to think that sleep is for the weak. They stay awake all night long, consume energy drinks during the daytime, and live life with little sleep. They don’t want to miss anything exciting or fun. They want to participate and live out as much of their teen years as possible.

Naturally, the more teens stay awake, the lesser their sleep time becomes. It’s an old problem well-documented by sleep experts. As early as 1975, researchers William Dement and Mary Carskadon studied 10 and 12-year-olds and discovered that teens roughly need 9 hours of sleep throughout their teen years. Less than that leads to cumulative sleep debt and increasing sleepiness as days go by.

In more modern times, in a podcast, Dr. Chris Seton, an adolescent sleep specialist, shared that, “15 years ago, 30 per cent of Australian teenagers were chronically sleep-deprived.” However, based on estimates, he revealed that 70 per cent of adolescents suffer from less sleep.

…But no sleep makes you weak

Staying up when they’re told to sleep may excite teenagers, but chronic insufficient sleep can cause various physical, behavioural, and mental issues.

Physical Effects

For example, Dr. Seton explained that constant sleep deprivation shifts the focus of the immune system to survival. You will likely contract more illnesses, and you’ll take longer to recover when you do get sick. Literally, a small amount of sleep makes you weak.

Mental Effects

In another aspect, sleep directly affects mood and, in general, mental health. Notice: if you get good quality sleep, you’re usually happy in the morning, but get poor sleep, and you’re irritable when you wake up. In worse cases, according to the National Sleep Foundation, not having enough sleep can contribute to the development of mental disorders.

Performance Effects

In addition, the brain is affected by a good night’s rest. Analytical and creative thinking need quality sleep, but sleep debt can dampen your thinking power. Drowsiness and lack of attention because of lack of sleep can also lower academic performance.

Behavioural Effects

If you think it is weakened, you can also expect poor decision-making skills. Research abounds that sleep deprivation in teens relates to high-risk practices such as texting while driving, drunk driving, and drug and alcohol use.

All these adverse effects emphasize the importance of sleep for teenagers. Poor teen sleep will only lead to sleep problems and more.

Why sleep became boring

Dr. Seton mainly accuses easily accessible screen time of keeping teens awake all night. Other experts agree. Psychotherapist Julie Wright explained that electronic devices steal time from teens in many ways. Blue light from smartphones, for example, signals the brain to stay awake and stifles the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

In another way, according to Wright, teens enter a “flow” state when browsing social media or playing games. You become so involved with what you’re seeing or playing that you lose track of time.

Finally, Dr. Seton explained that using smartphones feels more fun, engaging or addictive than sleep. So, teens undervalue the worth of proper sleep habits. They want to be updated with everything, or they want to be the first to know about anything. They’d rather be on their phones than go to sleep at night.

How to help teens love to sleep again

Thankfully, much can still be done to help teenagers regain healthy sleep patterns and experience better sleep.

For one, although this depends on high school authorities, experts across the board agree that late school start times for high school students can improve teen sleep. Later start times allow teens to sleep in, wake up feeling refreshed, and be less likely to develop sleep disorders. A study in the Pediatrics journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as another study by the University of Minnesota and the CDC, confirm it.

Of course, parents have less control over school schedules and more power at home. Although controversial, a strict “no smartphones” rule may work if you explain why you want to take their devices away. Do it yourself, and your teens will follow. If you all use your phones as alarm clocks, you can easily replace them with analogue alarms. They will do the job just as well and eliminate blue light in the bedroom.

Alternatively, parents can find opportunities to talk about sleep with their teenage children. Use their favourite curricular or extracurricular activities to encourage self-motivation. Suppose your child understands that following a healthy sleep schedule will help with his or her well-being and academic, sports, creative, or relational performance. In that case, they will definitely sleep appropriately on their own.

Help your teens sleep for their own sake

The issue of little to no sleep among teens is widespread from Australia to the rest of the world. Teens are feeling the harmful effects of their improper sleep habits. However, you can help and encourage your children to get proper sleep as long as you show them how important sleep can be in their lives. They’ll choose to go to sleep themselves once they understand how valuable sleep is.

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