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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

KidsMatter 2 Us – Sleep and mental health


We know babies cry when they are tired, but how do we recognize the need for sleep with our teens? Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. Helping youth recognize the importance of sleep, its impact on their mental health, and address any struggles is at the core of their well-being.

For several years, the noticeable decline in teen sleep has been a trending topic. As we look for solutions to our teen mental health crisis, in a recent article in the Washington Post, Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright authors of “Generation Sleepless: Why Tweens and Teens Aren’t Sleeping Enough and How We Can Help Them” shared, “…a major culprit is hiding in plain sight: This generation of teens is the most sleep-deprived population in human history.”

They also stated that, “Brain imaging studies have shown that sleep deprivation amps up the reactive, negative, emotion centers of the brain, while the prefrontal cortex – which soothes and give us perspective, judgement and emotional regulation is less active.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 6-13 need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep at night. Teenager (ages 14-17) need 8-10 hours each night. They also shared that “Nearly 60% of middle schoolers do not get enough sleep on school nights. For high schoolers, that number is over 70 %.” By their final year in high school, Turgeon and Wright shared, only 15% get enough sleep.

Research has shown that a lack of sleep can cause many issues, particularly for teenagers. The BBC reported last year that a “serious lack of sleep was one of the most commons symptoms of depression among adolescents.” In Science Daily, sleep expert Dr. Alex Agostini linked sleep to mental health. “Getting enough sleep is important for all of us – it helps our physical health, boosts our immunity, and ensures we can function on a daily basis. But for teenagers, sleep is especially critical because they’re at an age where they’re going through a whole range of physical, social, and developmental changes, all of which depend on enough sleep.”

Many parents might not realize that their teen is having trouble getting enough sleep. Here are a few tips to discuss with your teen:

  • Encourage a regular sleep schedule and routines.
  • Minimize screen time and put away phones one hour before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine near bedtime.
  • Encourage morning sun time to regulate a natural sleep rhythm.
  • Review and monitor schedules and commitments and refocus and prioritize where needed.

Turgeon and Wright made an important conclusion, “Sleep should be a priority as we seek to turn the tide of the teen mental health crisis. From there, we can more clearly identify what else is troubling kids – and truly help them.”

Good mental health habits learned in teen years will serve young people through their adult years.

Nina Menis
Nina Menis
Nina M. Menis serves as CEO & Executive Director of KidsMatter. Nina grew up in Naperville and enjoyed raising a family in Naperville. Nina has worked in advancement for both public and private P-20 educational institutions and area nonprofits for more than 30 years. Contact Nina (pronounced nine-eh) at nina@kidsmatter2us.org or (630) 864-3974.