Sleep deficiencies - how do they affect the teenager's body?

being an owl is caused by a disturbed circadian rhythm. What is it and how does it affect the functioning of the child? Sleep deficiencies.

Sleep deficiencies - how do they affect the teenager's body?
Sleep deficiencies - how do they affect the teenager's body?

Probably each of us has heard at least once the phrase: "you are an early bird" or "you are such a night owl". People are often divided into two groups: the first are those who go to bed early and wake up early - the larks, and the second group is the so-called owls that wake up late and go to bed late. It turns out that from a physiological point of view, we are all larks, and being an owl is caused by a disturbed circadian rhythm. What is it and how does it affect the functioning of the child? Sleep deficiencies.

What is the circadian rhythm?

The circadian rhythm is our internal biological clock. Its task is to determine the most optimal level of concentration and ability to learn and work. According to the American researcher from the University of Oxford, ignoring our natural circadian rhythms causes fatigue, frustration, emotional tension, impaired concentration, irritability and difficulties in regulating emotions, including a drop in mood.

How much sleep does a person need?

The National Sleep Foundation has conducted more than 300 studies on sleep and on this basis determined how much time a person should spend on sleep in order to optimize the ability to concentrate and be ready to work. For individual age groups, the amount of sleep fluctuates within the following limits:

  • Newborn baby (0-3 months) - 14-17 hours.
  • Infant (4-11 months) - 12-15 hours.
  • Young children (1-2 years) - 11-14 hours.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years) - 10-13 hours.
  • School age (6-13 years) - 9-11 hours.
  • Teenagers (14-17 years) - 8-10 hours.
  • Young adults (18-25 years) - 7-9 hours.
  • Adults (26-64 years) - 7-9 hours.
  • Seniors (65 +) - 7-8 hours.

As can be seen, there is little difference between the amount of sleep necessary for adolescents and adults. So why is it so difficult for young people to get regular and healthy sleep?

Delayed sleep-wake phase syndrome

DSWPD (Delayed sleep - wake phase disorder) is the most common form of disturbance of the circadian rhythm in adolescents. Almost 16% of teenagers complain of sleep disorders due to neurobiology, they are:

  • Persistent insomnia, problems with falling asleep, falling asleep in the morning (3-4 hours), and consequently difficulties with the morning wake up. During the day it is not better, because the teenager is tired, sleepy, it is difficult for him to concentrate, and thus - he learns worse. Usually, she also misses her first lesson or skips her last class to go home and go to sleep. It also happens that the teenager does not go to school at all, ignoring the morning orders of his parents.
  • Excessive sleepiness - exceeding the optimal amount of sleep for the age norm, i.e. early hours of falling asleep (around 19/20), constant difficulties with getting up in the morning and taking a nap in the afternoon after returning from school. Excessive sleep causes irritability and difficulties in the area of ‹‹cognitive functions. In this case, it is recommended to consult an endocrinologist and check the level of sugar and thyroid hormones due to similar symptoms in their deficiency.

It turns out that these problems are not related to sleep quality, as in adults, but to the number of hours of sleep. If the teenager was allowed to sleep in his circadian rhythm, difficulties such as insomnia, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and the inability to wake up in the morning will be eliminated.

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Many parents say that their children's sleep problems disappear, for example during holidays, when the son or daughter goes to bed at 2-3 in the morning and gets up around noon. DSWPD should not be confused with the physiological delay in sleep hours in a teenager, the so-called DLMO (Dim light metatonin onset). It is caused by a shift in the secretion of melatonin (a chemical compound that regulates the circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness, released due to the lack of daylight) and hormonal changes. It turns out that in adolescents, melatonin is secreted by the body with a delay of 2-3 hours compared to children and adults. This means that in a young child and an adult, melatonin begins to work somewhere between 9.00 pm and 10.30 pm, and usually then we go to bed, while in a teenager this process begins after midnight. Therefore, usually when a parent goes to sleep, their child is still active. The situation is similar in the morning. When our melatonin levels gradually drop and we wake up, usually around 6-7 am, for our teenager it happens between 9-10 am. This is why it is so difficult for him to get up to school in the morning and actively participate in the first lessons.

Induced DSWPD in a teenager

As indicated by psychiatrists and neurologists (diagnosing DSWPD), the so-called induced DSWPD, resulting from deliberately shifting the hours of sleep. The reasons are quite prosaic and certainly largely depend on the lifestyle of the teenager:

  • Social activity on social networks. Instead of going to sleep, the child chats or surfs the Internet.
  • Addiction to computer games. Today's teenagers very often play games for several or even several hours a day.
  • "Dropping" the night to prepare for a test or test that requires reworking a large amount of material. It is also associated with a lot of stress, which increases the level of adrenaline in the body - when a child finally wants to go to sleep, the excess of the hormone mentioned prevents him from doing so.
  • Excessive exposure to blue light emitted by LED screens (computer, phone, tablet, TV), which blocks the release of melatonin.
  • Excessive emotional arousal, caused both by surfing the Internet, computer games, and studying at night. All these activities are a source of anxiety, they increase the level of cortisol and adrenaline, which make it impossible to fall asleep. As adults, we also have such situations when we are tired but cannot fall asleep, for example after an exciting event.

Characteristics of a teenager with induced DSWPD

  • Going to bed after midnight is the norm for him, until then he constantly uses a computer, smartphone, etc.
  • Sometimes he falls asleep earlier.
  • He himself is unlikely to complain of insomnia, the parents of the teenager pay attention to it more often, complaining about the difficulties in waking the child to school in the morning.
  • Getting up in the morning is usually quite dramatic, parents wake the child up a dozen times.
  • Trying to implement simple rules such as using the computer until 8 p.m., going to bed earlier and at regular times, and avoiding an after-dinner nap, just doesn't work.

Both adolescent behavior and the biological shift in melatonin secretion lead to a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation causes the adolescent's brain to become overstimulated, which makes it even more difficult to fall asleep. It is worth adding that the consequences of sleep deprivation are:

  • Problems with concentration during the lesson.
  • Disturbances in cognitive processes - mainly difficulties with remembering what is in the lesson and recreating what a teenager has learned at home, often just taking a night out.
  • Bad mood, irritability and, consequently, reacting with aggression to the smallest stimuli.
  • Increased school absenteeism - mainly in the first or last lessons. In the morning, the baby is unable to get up, and in the afternoon he needs a nap.
  • "Swimming away" during the lesson - deterioration of grades.
  • Reduced performance in sports, slower reflexes.
  • Inaccurate movements which may result in injury.

How can you help your teenager sleep better?

  1. The example comes from above - parents show by their behavior how important good-quality sleep is.
  2. Rules that apply to everyone - especially regarding the use of screens before going to bed. It is worth planning in this way, for example, doing homework or other activities for which we need a screen to finish them in the early evening.
  3. A well-planned morning - since we are unable to make school classes start a few hours later, we can pay more attention to how we arrange our morning. It is worth making it as stressful and burdensome as possible. Perhaps you should consider packing in the evening, preparing clothes for the next day, or taking a bath in the evening. This will allow you to sleep a bit longer.
  4. Avoiding heavy meals, sweets, coffee, strong tea, energy drinks in the afternoon and evening hours.
  5. The bed is used for sleeping - if possible, school tasks should be performed at a desk, table, maybe even in another room. It is much easier to fall asleep in a bed that is only used for rest.
  6. Routine before going to bed - a warm bath, calm breaths, relaxation, time with a book, but not very exciting. It turns out that repeating the same calming activities before bed will cause the teenager's brain to associate them with sleep and rest.
  7. Dark room - the release of melatonin is associated with the advent of darkness, so it is worth covering the windows to make the room completely dark. The lack of daylight access to the organ of vision causes the brain to "enter" into sleepiness.
  8. Regularity of waking up and going to bed even on weekends - "excessive" sleep at the weekend reduces the progress achieved with routine bedtime activities during the week.

The American scientist, believes that lack of sleep is a serious social problem, and the 14-25 age group is particularly vulnerable to it, not only because of purely biological, but also social, related to habits that disturb teenagers and disturb the rhythm. diurnal. Lack of sleep contributes to a reduction in the efficiency of cognitive processes, a drop in mood, and even greater susceptibility to mental illness. We have no influence on biology, but we can change our habits so that they better serve us and help regulate the circadian rhythm. Remember that the example comes from above, so before we start to blame our teenager, let's try to think about how my own circadian rhythm lifestyle can help him change habits.