How sleep impacts teenagers’ mental health

Teenage years are formative and sleep is an essential part of development. As the mind and body begin a transformation into adulthood, both the quality and quantity of sleep are important. One of the first things I ask a teenager who attends a session with me is, “How is your sleep?” I’ve observed that most teenagers don’t get good quality sleep. The pandemic has made the situation worse as more and more teenagers lead sedentary lifestyles.

Multiple studies have shown that teenagers need between eight and nine hours of sleep each night to function optimally. Unfortunately, most teenagers don’t manage to get the hours of sleep they need. Many teenagers are okay with not getting enough sleep. That they can “function” with less sleep. Some believe they can get through days with less sleep and then make up for lost sleep by sleeping more at other times. This is a recipe for disaster!

Before bedtime, practice simple breathing techniques for better sleep. (Representative Image/Pexels)

What are some of the benefits of good sleep?

* Boosts your immune system

* Strengthens your heart

* Prevents weight gain

* Improves your mood and emotional health

*Helps increase stamina and endurance

* Helps improve cognitive function, including memory

*Helps increase energy levels and increase productivity

*Raises attention

* Helps manage chronic stress

What Are Some of the Negative Effects of Chronic Sleep Deprivation?

Persistent sleep deprivation can affect teens in the following ways:

* Dark circles under the eyes and a tired look

*Irritable bowel syndrome and other stomach disorders

*Increase or decrease in eating habits

*Applies Focus and Concentration

* Increases daydreaming and inattention

* Increases forgetfulness

* Increases moodiness

*Influences decision making

* Increases procrastination and lack of interest/enthusiasm

* Reinforces existing mental illnesses such as anxiety depression, ADHD

*Increases risky behavior

*Negative effect on various vital organs

* Can cause a number of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes

* Poor grades and school performance

Studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation impairs the brain’s ability to absorb and learn new information. It has also been found that lack of sleep can lead to mental illness. Sleep deprivation has been closely linked to psychiatric disorders such as ADHD (formerly known as ADD), anxiety spectrum disorder, depression, psychosis, and mood disorders.

A study conducted by the University of Texas found that sleep-deprived teenagers are four times more likely to be depressed than their peers. Major depression can lead to suicidal thoughts. Sleep deprivation leads to risky behaviors such as substance use, which can then lead to drug-induced insomnia. Drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine cause sleep deprivation.

Another study published in 2020 found that teens who slept poorly by age 15 and didn’t have anxiety or depression at the time were more likely to develop anxiety or depression when they were 17, 21, and 24 years old.

Dos and Don’ts for Teens

Here are some things teens can do to regulate their sleep patterns and ensure they achieve restful sleep:

*Take a warm bath just before bed

* Practice simple breathing techniques before bed

*Practice meditation

*Hear nature sounds or instrumental music

*Keep your room as dark as possible at night

* Stay active during the day so you are tired at night

* Follow a strict sleep routine for 21 days, which will then hopefully become a habit

* Stick to the same wake-up time every day (including holidays)

* Don’t listen to sad songs

* Don’t listen to fast, upbeat songs

* Do not play video games

* Don’t exercise late at night

*Do not drink coffee, energy drinks or soft drinks at night

* Do not use cell phones, laptops or watch TV at bedtime

* Do not engage in intellectually stimulating conversations with friends late at night

*Stop thinking

*Should ensure 8-9 hours of sleep at night. Not during the day.

* Strictly no sleeping during daytime

* Make sure you don’t oversleep. Regularly sleeping more than 9 hours a night can lead to many health complications

Avoid late nights

After a good night’s sleep, a person is likely to feel awake, refreshed, and rejuvenated. You should feel ready for a new day. If someone has just woken up from deep sleep, they’re likely to feel slightly light-headed, but that light-headed feeling should go away within a few minutes and they should start to feel completely rested.

treatment options

Counseling: When teenagers are overthinking and struggling emotionally, a few talk therapy sessions can be of great benefit. Counseling provides a safe space for a person to express their concerns and engage in coping strategies that will help them get back on track. In most cases, counseling has proven extremely beneficial in helping teenagers improve their overall mental health and sleep problems. A knowledgeable counselor can help teens not only address their sleep issues, but also uncover deeper causes of sleep deprivation. If a teenager is having trouble sleeping, they should seek help from a counselor or psychotherapist. This should be the first step in seeking professional help and should be done without delay.

Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy works on the subconscious part of the mind and can help teenagers experience deep relaxation. It is a wonderful tool to eliminate symptoms of insomnia and promote sound sleep. There are no reported side effects of hypnotherapy and it is fairly safe when used under the supervision of a trained professional.

Medications: Short- and long-term treatments are available to treat both acute and chronic sleep disorders. It is best to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe the right medication for the person concerned. A psychiatrist is trained in psychiatric medicines, which are commonly used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Please note that not all medications are addictive and when used correctly can help address sleep deprivation issues fairly quickly. Please do not hesitate to consult a specialist if necessary.

(The author is a psychotherapist.)

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