If you’re not aware of the impact of insomnia in teenagers, you might want to take a second look. No wonder why you can’t keep your teens from watching the late night show, or why they still looked tired in the morning after going to bed early. Sleeplessness or problems sleeping among teenagers may not appear serious at first, but insomnia in teenagers is very much a reality. In fact, insomnia in teenagers is very common.
In a study particularly among US teens, more than 90% reported having problems sleeping at least twice per week within the past year. For some, insomnia seemed chronic and recurrent, beginning from the age of 11.
And because of school the next day, teens still need to get up early despite lack of sleep. This sleep deprivation can cause irritability, moodiness, and difficulty learning and concentrating, thus affecting teenagers’ school performance. An even more serious effect of insomnia is that it can be a prelude to depression or anxiety disorder. Studies also show that young people (16-29 years old) are most prone to auto accidents as a result of falling asleep behind the wheel.
Causes of Insomnia in Teenagers
At the onset of puberty, a person’s body clock changes. Before adolescence, this clock directs the person to naturally fall asleep around 8 or 9 pm. For teens, though, this time is delayed two hours or later.
Moreover, as this age is usually the time of exploration and discovery among teens, this is when they start drinking, smoking, and staying out late with their friends. They may also start drinking coffee to stay alert during the day. These habits, though, can cause or aggravate insomnia in teenagers and may give rise to other sleep disorders.
Stress in school, like peer pressure, school performance, and relationship with teachers can also contribute to insomnia.
Some cases of insomnia, though, can start as early as childhood and continue up to the teenage years. Insomnia in children usually occurs when the child has become dependent on a person or condition that he/she associates with sleep – for example, a parent. Without that, these children have a hard time sleeping.
Treatment of Insomnia in Teenagers
Below are some treatments for insomnia in teenagers. Though these may be done on your own, it is still best to seek advice from a doctor or qualified medical practitioner.
1) Light Therapy. Expose your teens to bright light in the mornings. This will help their body feel that it is time to wake up. A device called a light box can be used for this purpose.
2) On the other hand, keeping the bedroom dark or in subdued light can signal to the body that it is time to sleep.
3) Chronotherapy. Delay bedtime by two or three hours progressively every night for several succeeding nights. For example, if your teen usually sleeps at midnight, you can make him/her stay up until 2 or 3 am and get up at 10 or 11 am. The next night, he/she will sleep at 6 am and wake up at 2 pm, and so on. Continue with this until you reach the desired bedtime. This may be best to do towards the end of the summer break.
4) Medications with melatonin. Melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, can help. Let your teen take it five hours before the desired bedtime. Taking this, though, should be more of a last resort as this can have side effects. It is best to take this under a doctor’s supervision.
Apart from these treatments, you can do the following to help your teens sleep better:
1) Encourage them to exercise during the day, but not within three hours before bedtime. Regular exercise can help establish healthy sleep patterns.
2) Discourage them to do homework or anything mentally stimulating one hour before bedtime.
3) Decrease caffeine in their diet.
4) Remove distractions from their bedroom, like the telephone or TV.
5) If they are worried about the things to do the next day, let them make a list to eliminate anxiety for the moment.
Though insomnia in teenagers can be serious, it is treatable. With you and your teens working together, they can sleep better and be healthier.