As soon as you brought your newborn home from the hospital, you began wishing more than anything that he would sleep through the night. However, now that heâ€™s in his teenage years, you worry that your kid has some kind of sleep disorder, as he never seems to get as much sleep as he truly wants. What gives?
The truth is that your teen needs more sleep now than he ever will need for the rest of his long life. If you are utterly baffled by your adolescentâ€™s sleep schedule, you can learn more about his biological sleep needs by reading below.
The Biological Clock
A personâ€™s desire to sleep is governed by two systems: the sleep/wake homeostasis and the biological clock. Simple enough, the sleep/wake homeostasis is the system by which the body tracks oneâ€™s waking hours and attempts to balance them with sufficient time asleep. However, the biological clock (which is also known as the circadian rhythm) establishes a pattern of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.
There is very little that prevents young children from falling asleep; usually, their circadian rhythms sync perfectly with earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-up times. The problem is that around puberty, a personâ€™s biological clock jumps forward a few hours, meaning that just as they should start settling down for sleep â€” around 9 or 10 p.m. â€” their bodies are propping them awake. Your teen isnâ€™t staying up late because he is rebelling; he is pushing back his bedtime because his body isnâ€™t ready to drift off. Eventually, your teenâ€™s rhythm will jump back again â€” which is why you can fall asleep at a reasonable hour â€” but it will be several years before this happens.
The Sleep Debt
Recall how the sleep/wake homeostasis mandates the body to sleep after a certain amount of time awake, and now think about all the time your teen spends delaying sleep. As they age, teens gain more and more responsibility: their school work compounds, they obtain part-time jobs, their social concerns increase, and more. Studies show that teens need about nine and a half hours of sleep for perfect alertness and health, but all of these activities cut into that essential sleep period and create a â€œsleep debtâ€ in the sleep/wake homeostasis. Thus, your teen sleeps well into the afternoon on weekends in a desperate attempt to catch up on this debt.
The Importance of Routine
Just like you feel better when you obey bedtime and wake-up time rules, your teen will benefit from a strict schedule that he maintains on weekdays and weekends. You should talk to your teen about your concerns for his sleep health, and you can work together to establish sleeping and waking times that satisfy his nine-and-a-half-hour requirement. Your teen should also follow a routine for exercise and meals, as eating and working out too soon to bedtime can keep his body awake longer.
Additionally, you can help your teenâ€™s sleep by equipping him with the right tools for snoozing. A comfortable and supportive mattress, like the Personal Comfort adjustable bed, and a bedroom free from light and sound are excellent first steps to an ideal sleeping place for your teen.
5 Possible Sleep Disorders
On top of this, your teen may in fact be suffering from a sleep disorder that is further impacting his ability to sleep. The following five disorders are common among youth; if you suspect that your teenâ€™s drowsiness is a clinical issue, you should contact your doctor for more information.
- Obstructive sleep apnea. What you might hear as snoring may in fact be a noisy symptom of a respiratory disorder that is preventing the body from sufficient oxygen during rest.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease. At night, a faulty valve in the stomach may allow harsh acids to creep up into your teenâ€™s esophagus, causing pain and interrupting the sleep cycle.
- Restless leg syndrome. Your teenâ€™s constant pacing may be a result of RLS, which inspires a need to move the legs and can create leg spasms during sleep.
- Nightmares. While your teen may look and act like an adult, he likely still suffers the same insecurities he did as a child, and these may manifest as sleep-disrupting nightmares.
- Insomnia. Often, teens donâ€™t experience long bouts of insomnia, but even a week or two of troubled sleep can wreak havoc on a teenâ€™s school and social life.