Saturday, July 16, 2011

How Many Hours of Sleep do Teenagers Need

Why is sleep important? The National Sleep Foundation recognizes that sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Lack of sleep can be the reason you to look bad, make you feel moody and perform poorly. A brain that is hungry for sleep will cause your teenager to have daytime drowsiness which can affect job or school performance and even be deadly if they fall asleep easy behind the wheel. When you do not get enough sleep, you are more likely to have an accident, injury and/or illness. How many hours of sleep do teenagers need?

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Just like the air we breathe and the food we eat, sleep is vital for our health and well-being. Teenagers will eat better and can manage the stress more efficiently in their everyday lives. As we get older our biological sleep patterns alter towards later times in both waking and sleeping, meaning it is natural not to be able to fall asleep easily before 11pm. Teenagers need roughly 8 ½ to 9 ¼ hours of sleep to function at their best the next day. It has been reported that only 15% of teens get 8 ½ hours or more of sleep on school nights. Why? This is due to irregular sleeping patterns that affect their biological clock which hurts their quality of sleep. Staying up late either on weekends or during the week cramming for an exam while getting their after school activities done alters their sleep/wake cycle making it harder for them to get up in the morning, let alone feel well rested to get through the day. Continuous disruption of their sleep cycle can cause other sleep problems like; narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

Getting Too Little Sleep:

In 2006 the Sleep in America did a poll and found that many teenagers who showed signs of a depressive mood often were more likely to have a sleep problem. Almost half of the teens polled (46%) had some feelings of hopelessness, were nervous or tense, worried too much and generally felt unhappy, sad or depressed, 37% scored moderately high and 17% scored high. Those in with the high score range were more inclined to take longer to fall asleep on school nights, get less sleep and have sleep related problems. In fact, 73% of those teens who said they were unhappy, sad or depressed also reported that they were not getting enough sleep and fought afternoon sleepiness.

While many adults may think that teenagers problems that caused them to be nervous, tense or worry too much aren’t that important because they feel teens have things easy – the opposite was found true according to the poll. Most teenagers were likely to say they worried about things too much (58%) and/or felt stressed out and anxious (56%). They also reported feeling of hopeless about their future or feeling unhappy, sad or depressed much or somewhat within the past two weeks of the survey.

Lack of sleep affects mood and a depressed mood can lead to less sleep. This catch 22 can be defeated with a proper course of action. Experts recommend teenagers establish healthy bedtime habits starting with getting 8 ½ to 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night, even on the weekends. If teens need up to 9 ¼ hours of sleep and find it easy to fall asleep around 11pm that would add up to  waking  up around 10:15am, so one way for them to get their required amount of sleep is to start school later. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating a 11am school start time, but I am stating that a teenagers natural sleep cycle conflicts with the school's schedule. Most schools start classes very early in the morning and often teenagers need an alarm clock or their parents to wake them. They get ready for school in a daze and find it hard to pay attention in class because they are sleep deprived. Schools need to understand teen’s natural sleep/wake cycles and make their first class later in the morning. For example, starting class at 9am instead of 8am would mean their students would get five more hours of sleep each week. Enrollment and attendance records would improve and students performance levels would get better as well as their general overall mood and well-being. The National Sleep Foundation's recommendation is the creation of "sleep-smart schools" that adopt sleep education curricula and review school start times that more adequately respond to a teen's biological shift to a later sleep/wake cycle. Everyone in favor say I!

Getting Too Much Sleep:

Recently wrote an article about a rare disorder that affects teenagers some call “that sleeping sickness” and also known as Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. Kleine-Levin syndrome is marked by periodic periods of excessive drowsiness during which the teen can sleep for 24-48 hours only getting up to go to the bathroom and eat. Other than the sleep disorder, hypersomnia that causes an individual excessive sleepiness with long sleep times, Kleine-Levin is characterized by compulsive eating, called megaphagia, hypersexuality and almost everyone has cognitive and mood dysfunction.

Doctors don’t know what causes Kleine-Levin syndrome, but half of the reported cases were preceded by a mild infection. It’s this infection that triggers an autoimmune reaction. Today it is known to affect teens and early 20’s and 70% of those that have it are male. The excessive sleepiness or episode lasts more than two days and less than four weeks which is intermixed with long intervals of normal alertness. Episode onset is often abrupt, and may be associated with flu-like symptoms. Additional symptoms include: irritability, childishness, disorientation and hallucinations may be observed during an episode. Mood can be depressed as a consequence, but not a cause, of the disorder. Affected individuals are completely normal between episodes, although they may not be able to remember afterwards everything that happened during the episode. It may be weeks or up to one year before symptoms reappear. The average course of the disease is roughly eight to twelve years and each episode eventually decreases in frequency and intensity. Symptoms may be related to malfunction of the hypothalamus and thalamus, parts of the brain that govern appetite and sleep. Recent studies also suggest that there may be a link to a deficiency of dopamine transporter density in the lower striatum.

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There is no definitive treatment for Kleine-Levin syndrome and sometime waiting the episode out under a watchful eye is better than prescription medication. Some doctors prescribe stimulants to treat sleepiness but they can increase irritability and will not improve cognitive abnormalities. Lithium and carbamazepine medications have shown to prevent further episodes. This disorder should be differentiated from fatigue during the premenstrual period in teenage girls, which may be controlled with birth control pills. The doctor should also make the distinction between Kleine-Levin syndrome symptoms which are similar to those that occur from encephalopathy, recurrent depression or psychosis.

Sleep experts say habitually sleeping more than 10 hours can be indicative of other medical problems. Common causes of excessive sleepiness in teens or young adults: sleep deprivation, circadian rhythm disturbance such as delayed sleep phase syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia and depression.

How important is sleep? Parents and teenagers need to know the benefits of making and sticking to a nighttime routine. The earlier parents start helping their children establish good sleep habits, the easier it will be to maintain them through the teenage years. The content provided in How Many Hours of Sleep do Teenagers Need is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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