Did you know that according to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll
Almost 80 percent of U.S. teens do not get a proper night’s sleep? While missing sleep once in a while is normal, many American teens are consistently falling short of the recommended 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of sleep per night.
Normally a teen’s circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock, is reset during these years causing fatigue to set in later in the night. Waking up later in the morning would be a natural function, but with the demands of a busy weekly schedule, it isn’t always possible. A steady stream of late nights and early mornings can make it more difficult for teens to function during the day.
Recently, researchers from the University of Texas performed a study of over 4000 adolescent teens between the ages of 11-17 to determine the number of insomnia occurrences. One year later, they found that with those same test subjects, 13.9% had at least one symptom of insomnia with another 5.5% experiencing daytime fatigue. Approximately half of these cases studied were considered to be chronic, lasting more than one month. It is interesting to note that the researchers found no link between the results and the test subjects’ gender, age, or family income level.
According to merriam-webster.com, insomnia is defined as a “prolonged and usually abnormal inability to get enough sleep”. In other words, it is the inability to get adequate hours or quality of sleep for mental, physical, or emotional reasons. There are varying degrees of insomnia:
1. Transient insomnia (fewer than 7 days)
2. Acute insomnia (fewer than one month)
3. Chronic insomnia (lasting for more than 30 days)
There are many causes of teen insomnia and the challenge to parents and doctors is to pinpoint the cause and the solution. Time and patience may be needed to determine if it is due to a medical condition, a side effect from medicine, emotional health, or substance abuse. Here are some potential culprits:
1. Stress – This is the most common cause of teen insomnia.
2. Overstimulation of electronics during the day and especially before bedtime.
3. Short term illnesses such as headaches, stuffy noses, and the flu.
4. Emotional issues from relationships with friends and family
5. Uncomfortable sleeping conditions such as excessive room temperatures or external noise from televisions, radios, and iPods
6. Psychiatric disorders.
7. A diet consisting of unhealthy foods with high sugar and fat content.
8. Eating a meal or snack right before bedtime.
Sleep-deprived teens experience a decrease in their ability to focus. Because of inconsistent sleep, many teens receive poor grades, fall into a state of depression, or become susceptible to dangerous situations like falling asleep behind the wheel. Today, there are a large number of untreated cases of teen insomnia, so it is important for parents to help their teens get the right amount of sleep each night. Here are some ways to help:
1. Insist upon a consistent sleep schedule of 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours each night.
2. Cut back on naps and excessive sleep from sleeping in too late.
3. Incorporate relaxing activities before bed such as reading and listening to calming music.
4. Power off all video games, computers, and phones.
5. Turn off all bedroom lights.
6. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
7. Encourage regular exercise can help as long as it is not within 4 hours of bedtime.
If making these lifestyle changes has not improved your teen’s insomnia, consult with a physician. A physical examination may be required to find out if there are additional issues such as nightmares, obstructive sleep apnea, sleepwalking, narcolepsy, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) or restless legs syndrome (RLS).