February 4, 2012 4 Comments
Trust me, I’m not trying to disregard the very real mood swings, hormonal shifts or menstrual effects that happen during the teen years. But, not getting enough sleep can exacerbate any and all of these conditions. The average teen gets roughly 5 hours of sleep nightly during a school week. That’s just not enough. The human body is still growing and the brain still forming until age 25. Sleep plays a vital part in the growth of a healthy body and mind. Many teens try to make up for this sleep deprivation on the weekends by sleeping those two days away, but that doesn’t really balance things out.
I started thinking about teens and sleep after interviewing a 16-year-old girl at one of the high schools in San Francisco. She was extremely emotional throughout the interview even when discussing non-emotional issues. She became teary-eyed every time she spoke. Even if I made the conversation light hearted and joked, she still had watery eyes. This was all a bit extreme, even for a 16-year-old girl. So, I asked her if she’s always this emotional and she said “pretty much.” Finally, she said something that clicked during our conversation. She said that she was stressed and exhausted all the time. So, I asked her how much sleep she gets a night. She said, probably 3 or 4 hours. I told her that may be the problem or at least part of her problem. Not getting enough sleep can make anyone irritable and more emotional. Just ask any new mom or graduate students trying to complete a thesis. Small spurts of relief on the weekends, just doesn’t repair the system fully. Next time your teen seems a bit moody or irritable, first ask her if she’s sleeping enough. The average teen should be getting between 8 and 9 hours of sleep nightly for peak health. Check in with your teen on her sleep habits from time to time. Help teach healthy sleep patterns and encourage them to get to bed at a consistent time nightly.