As we get back into the school year routine, the negotiation over bedtime begins. Teens say whatever they can to push their bedtime back. “But ALL of my friends stay up later than me! “Some of my friends don’t even have a bedtime!” Yeah, and I’m the Easter Bunny (wait…n-no I’m not).
So, what’s the magic number? How many hours of sleep does an adolescent need? The amount isn’t arbitrary. People require different amounts as they age for developmental reasons; however, teenagers typically need between 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Their mental, physical, social, and emotional development requires quality sleep.
Thinking and Learning
Sleep benefits the brain and promotes attention, memory, and analytical thought. It makes thinking sharper and learning easier. Sleep is the time when memories are consolidated, and space is created for new information input the next day. If you don’t get enough sleep, you are directly hindering your ability to learn. How are teens supposed to retain today’s gossip if their brain is clogged with last night’s homework?
Sleep deprivation can affect the development of the frontal lobe: the part of the brain critical to control impulsive behaviour. The frontal lobe is grossly immature in teenagers, so impairing judgement through lack of sleep can result in some poor decision making and problem solving (i.e. piercing their own belly button and trying to hide it by wearing a sweater in the pool).
Most people have experienced how sleep can affect your mood, and cause irritability, impaired judgement, and exaggerated emotional reactions. Add this to the already inflated emotional teenage response, and it’s just too hot to handle (we’re talking, “hide in your room until they’ve calmed down a smidge,” hot). Keep this in mind the next time you’re dealing with a sulky teenager. Maybe they’re not actually moody–just sleep deprived.
Physical Health and Development
Sleep contributes to the effective function of virtually every system of the body. It empowers the immune system, helps regulate hormones, and enables muscle and tissue recovery.
The phrase most commonly used in the sleep sphere right now is “sleep hygiene.” This refers to the healthy habits and practices used to facilitate a good night’s sleep, such as turning off your electronics an hour before bed. The key is consistency. Have a similar rhythm, even on weekends. As tempting as it is, staying up all night Friday and Saturday isn’t the move. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as “catching up” on sleep (sorry!).
Remember, bedtime is different from sleep time. Your teen might say goodnight and head upstairs, but that doesn’t mean they shut their cute little eyes when they get there. It might be a good idea to check on them to make sure they’re actually sleeping, not scrolling…
We’ve only scratched the surface on the importance of sleep, but trust us when we say, sleep isn’t like medicine–it is medicine. Like we mentioned earlier, sleep creates a huge impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health, so make sure your teenager is getting enough (we know it’s tough, but you’ll thank us in the morning).