Importance of Sleep

Teen Healthy Body – Sleep

What to Know About Sleep

Written by Joshua Roland, M.D., FAASM

Sleep is crucial to feel your best, perform at your best, be healthy, and grow. Not getting enough sleep can cause you to feel tired, have trouble focusing, negatively affect your mood, and even set you up for health problems. The adolescent years can be a challenging time in life where you are balancing many different things, including changes in your body, schoolwork, social life, activities, and figuring out future plans. With all this going on, it is important to make sure you still are getting enough sleep — to feel your best and to be healthy. Research studies have shown that getting a good night’s rest can help you perform better at school, sports, and activities, as well as improve your physical and mental health and well-being.   

So how much sleep do I need?

Sleep may have been easy as a child, but many young people find that they now have to be more mindful about their sleep habits to get a good night’s rest. So what is considered a good night’s rest?  

  • Early teens: 9-10 hours of sleep a night
  • Older Teens: 8-10 hours of sleep a night
  • Adults: 7-9 hours of sleep a night

The preteen and teen years are an important time to set yourself up to have good sleep habits to last the rest of your life. Investing some thought into your sleep now can really benefit your current goals as well as your long-term success!

How to develop a healthy sleep routine 

Developing a healthy sleep routine is important to start working on as a preteen or teen. Sleep habits you develop now can set you up to have better sleep the rest of your life. Having set behaviors you do each night can help your body and mind know it is time to sleep. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, and showering in a set pattern can help you get ready for bed. Your mind also needs time to unwind and get sleepy (almost bored) before you can go to bed. Putting away overly stimulating things such as phones, computers, video games, and school work an hour or two before bed can help you get to sleep easier. Engaging in relaxing activities such as light reading, mindfulness, meditation, or even just stretching can get the body and mind in a calm state to help you fall asleep.  

3 Natural ways to promote sleep

#1 – Keep Bed & Wake Time the Same Every Day

In addition to developing a good wind-down routine, keeping your bed and wake time the same every day, including the weekends, can help keep your biological clock in sync. And this helps your body and mind know what time you should be resting.

#2 – Don’t Use Your Bed as a Place to Hang Out

Another great way to promote sleep is keeping your bed as a space only designated for sleep. Many people will “hang out” in their bed. Whether spending time on devices, talking with friends, watching TV, or doing schoolwork, any time you spend in bed that is not related to sleep confuses our subconscious as to what we are supposed to be doing in that space. Avoiding activities in bed that are not sleep related can help our bodies and minds know to feel tired and sleepy when in bed.

#3 – Get Exercise During the Day and Limit Fluids Before Bed

Also, making sure we get enough exercise during the day, limiting fluids 2 hours prior to bedtime, and making that last bathroom run before jumping into bed can help us get a good night’s rest.

Substance Use & Sleep 

Many substances worsen sleep. Alcohol, nicotine (found in cigarettes or vape pens), and marijuana are sometimes thought to help with sleep, but in addition to the other health and safety issues associated with these substances, they actually make sleep much worse. Alcohol might make people sleepy initially, but there usually is a rebound effect where it wakes us up in the middle of the night and makes it hard to go back to sleep. Alcohol also suppresses an important stage of sleep called REM sleep, which is crucial to feel well rested. Alcohol changes our breathing pattern as well during sleep, and can cause a condition known as sleep apnea, where the airway muscles collapse during sleep, making it so we don’t get enough oxygen. Nicotine can greatly worsen sleep in addition to the many other health risks associated with smoking. Studies on marijuana generally suggest that chronic usage can worsen and disrupt sleep. Many other drugs tend to make sleep worse as well.  

5 FAQs About Sleep
1. Do my mood and emotions affect my sleep?

Mood and sleep go hand in hand. If you have anxiety, depression, or even just a lot of stress, this can worsen sleep. However, not sleeping well can worsen anxiety, depression, or overall stress levels. Try the sleep tips above to see if they can help. It is important to try to make sure you are getting enough sleep for your mental health and mood and seek out a psychologist or doctor if you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or too much stress.

2. Can lack of sleep affect my performance in school or sports?

Lack of sleep can impact performance and other goals, including negatively affecting schoolwork and sports. Getting enough rest has been shown to improve the ability to learn and perform on cognitive tasks, such as test taking, but also has demonstrated improved performance on things like athletics. There has even been evidence to show an increased chance of sports injuries if you are not getting enough rest.

3. How is ADHD associated with sleep?

ADHD and trouble focusing (in kids, teens, and adults) has been associated with poor sleep, in particular, obstructive sleep apnea. 

4. Is getting to bed late and waking up late normal?

Teenagers often have a normal shift in their internal clocks (or circadian rhythms) to a later bedtime and wake time. Sometimes this can cause arguments between teens and caregivers with the morning sleepiness being perceived as laziness, but this shift has been documented to be a normal phenomenon. Having good sleep habits, getting some morning sunlight, and avoiding too much light at night can help reduce the impact of this shift.

5. What is the worst thing for sleep?

Phones and devices such as computers, tablets, or TV are an integral part of many of our lives, however, they can be one of the worst things for sleep. Avoiding phone and device use in bed and in the hour leading up to bedtime can be one of the easiest ways to get better sleep. 

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