We know we all need sleep, despite the fact that most of us don’t let ourselves get enough. This is true for teens as well, but beyond just feeling sluggish due to a lack of sleep, teens are at risk of experiencing long-lasting physical, mental and emotional health problems. Next time you find your teen up late on their computer or cell phone, remind them of these three ways that sleep deprivation can affect their health.
Our bodies need sleep to stay healthy for many reasons. Generally speaking, teens who don’t sleep enough inhibit their immune system, leaving them more susceptible to colds and illness. Furthermore, a lack of sleep can affect a teen’s physical appearance, including their skin and weight.
If your teen is engaged in sports, particularly at a competitive level, then getting proper shut-eye is crucial to maintaining their performance. Teens who don’t have slower reaction times and less “muscle memory,” which can lead to poor play in athletics.
Sleep problems today could even lead to health issues tomorrow for your children. Teens who don’t get enough z’s run the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, high cholesterol, blood pressure and hypertension.
Alertness, cognition, memory, understanding and concentration are all hindered by a poor night of sleep. In fact, research conducted at Brown University suggests that sleep deprivation and lower grades are linked. Therefore, if your teen has a tough test coming up, it’s not to their benefit to stay up late cramming material. Instead, getting proper rest before their exam will help them more than any last minute studying.
3. Emotions & Mental Health
Other short term and lasting effects of sleep deprivation influence emotional and mental health. While your teen might be in a bad mood the day after having a poor night of sleep, their long term mental health can also be affected by chronic sleep deprivation.
If your teen has a preexisting mental health condition, then a lack of sleep can affect them 50-80% more than someone without a mental health diagnosis. Furthermore, studies suggest that chronic sleep deprivation may lead to increased risk of mental health problems. Put simply, a good night’s rest allows the brain to be more emotionally and mentally resilient.
Helping Your Teen Get a Good Night’s Sleep
There are many ways you can help your teen get a better night’s sleep. Promoting a regular pattern of both wake times and bed times helps their circadian, or natural, sleep cycle. Furthermore, avoiding electronic screens, vigorous exercise or eating right before bed can help your teen fall asleep better. If your teen struggles with anxiety and is often up late at night, encourage them to try breathing, meditation or journaling exercises to help clear their mind before bed.
At the end of the day, we all need our sleep! Helping your teen understand the importance of getting adequate rest is a lesson that will benefit them for years to come.
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