Teenage Health Part 3 (Sleepy Teens and Stress)
Most teens need between 8½ to 9 hours of sleep each night. The right amount of sleep is essential for anyone who wants to do well on a test or play sports without tripping over their feet. Unfortunately many teens don’t get enough sleep.
A recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation found only 20 percent of teens got the recommended nine hours of sleep a night. Furthermore, more than a quarter of the teens surveyed (28 percent) reported falling asleep in lessons. Lack of sleep also affected academic performance: teens who didn’t get enough sleep were more likely than their peers to get lower grades, while 80 percent of those who got an optimal amount of sleep reported achieving A’s and B’s in school.
Lack of sleep has also been linked to emotional troubles, such as feelings of sadness and depression. Sleep helps keep us physically healthy too by slowing our body’s systems enough to re-energize us after everyday activities.
Some of the signs that would indicate your teenager may need more sleep include difficulty waking up in the morning, inability to concentrate, falling asleep during classes, feelings of moodiness and even depression.
Tips that may help your teenager sleep better:
- Set a regular bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night signals to your body that it’s time to sleep. Waking up at the same time every day can also help establish sleep patterns. So try to stick to your sleep schedule even on weekends. Don’t go to sleep more than an hour later or wake up more than 2 to 3 hours later than you do during the week.
- Exercise regularly. Try not to exercise right before bed, though, as it can rev you up and make it harder to fall asleep. Many sleep experts believe that exercising 5 or 6 hours before bedtime (in late afternoon) may actually help a person sleep.
- Avoid stimulants. Don’t drink beverages with caffeine, such as fizzy drinks and coffee, after 4 PM. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so smoking before bed may stop you sleeping well.
- Relax your mind. Avoid violent, scary or action movies or television shows right before bed — anything that might set your mind and heart racing. Reading books with involved or active plots may also keep you from falling or staying asleep.
- Unwind by keeping the lights low. Light signals the brain that it’s time to wake up. Staying away from bright lights (including computer screens!) as well as meditating or listening to soothing music can help your body relax.
- Don’t nap too much. Naps of more than 20 minutes during the day may keep you from falling asleep later.
- Avoid all-nighters. Don’t wait until the night before a big test to study. Cutting back on sleep the night before a test may mean you perform worse than you would if you’d studied less but got more sleep.
- Create the right sleeping environment. Studies show that people sleep best in a dark room that is slightly on the cool side. Close your blinds or curtains (and make sure they’re heavy enough to block out light) and turn down the thermostat in your room (pile on extra blankets or wear pyjamas if you’re cold). Lots of noise can affect sleep too.
- Wake up with bright light. Bright light in the morning signals to your body that it’s time to get going.
Stress is a feeling that’s created when we react to particular events. It’s the body’s way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina and heightened alertness. Everyone experiences stress at times – adults, teens and even kids. But there are things you can do to minimize stress and manage the stress that’s unavoidable.
The events that provoke stress are called stressors and they cover a whole range of situations – everything from outright physical danger to making a class presentation or taking a term’s worth of your toughest subject.
Good Stress and Bad Stress
The stress response (also called the fight or flight response) is critical during emergency situations, such as when a driver has to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. It can also be activated in a milder form at a time when the pressure’s on but there’s no actual danger – like taking a penalty shot, getting ready to go to a big dance or sitting down for a final exam. A little of this stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge. The nervous system quickly returns to its normal state, standing by to respond again when needed.
Stress doesn’t always happen in response to things that are immediate or that are over quickly. Ongoing or long-term events can cause stress too: coping with parents divorcing or moving to a new house or school. Long-term stressful situations can produce a lasting, low-level stress that’s hard on everyone. The nervous system senses continued pressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pump out extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wear out the body’s reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or overwhelmed, weaken the body’s immune system and cause other problems.
Pressures that are too intense or last too long or troubles that are shouldered alone, can cause people to feel stress overload. Some of the things that can overwhelm the body’s ability to cope if they continue for a long time include being bullied or exposed to violence or injury, relationship stress, family conflicts or the heavy emotions that can accompany a broken heart or the death of a loved one.
Some people have anxiety problems that can cause them to overreact to stress, making even small difficulties seem like crises. If a person frequently feels tense, upset, worried or stressed it may be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety problems usually need attention and many people turn to professional counsellors for help in overcoming them.
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