Teens need more sleep than any other age group besides newborns, yet they are also the group that is arguably the most sleep deprived. When teens lose sleep, they are at risk of serious, troublesome side effects.
Mental Health Issues
A study of suburban high school students, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that each hour of lost sleep is associated with a 38 percent increased risk of feeling sad or hopeless and a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts. These are extremely alarming numbers, especially considering the fact that the solution is so simple. Allow teens to sleep. Parents who set and enforce a strict bedtime for their teens, as well as set a no devices in the bedroom rule, have more mentally healthy children. Depression and anxiety thrive in a teen who is sleep deprived. When adolescents experience chronic sleep loss or disruption, emotional vulnerability, negative thinking, and even hostility ensue.
Inability to Self-Regulate
As teens start losing sleep, they also begin losing their ability to exercise self-control. They have a hard enough time as it is regulating their self-control and sleep deprivation impedes their ability to control their emotions, impulses and moods. For example, a teen who is chronically sleep-deprived, is much more likely to make poor decisions, lash out emotionally or make impulsive decisions ranging from shoplifting and cheating, to self harm and fighting.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Also, the disruption of the natural sleep cycle significantly increases the risk of substance use in anyone, but teens are especially susceptible. Brain functions that regulate the experience of reward, emotions and impulsivity are disrupted when sleep is not consistent. When these functions are not well regulated, a teen’s risk for tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and amphetamine use increase dramatically.
Research tells us time and again that teenagers need significantly more sleep than they are getting. With early school start times, full schedules of extra-curricular activities, significant homework loads, and social media distractions, teens find themselves getting less sleep than their bodies need. Along with this comes the potential for mental health issues, the inability to self-regulate and a propensity for drug and alcohol abuse. As parents and educators, we need to understand the effects of sleep deprivation in order to begin taking steps toward preventing it. Our youth is our future yet we risk running them into the ground before they even get started. Let’s redouble our efforts to support our teenager’s need for a good night’s sleep.