Youth Sleeping Patterns are Troubled

Why is sleep so important for our bodies?

Sleep is when our bodies and minds take some time to rest and recuperate for the next day. Every single person on this earth, regardless of age or gender, requires sleep to function properly and essentially survive. During sleep, extremely important brain activity and essential body functions occur. A lack of sleep causes poor performance, mood swings, disheveled appearance, strained relationships and, naturally, drowsiness and inability to focus/think clearly. 

More importantly, a proper amount of rest is necessary during early development of the brain. There are two separate forms of sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). According to Sleep Foundation, regarding NREM, “blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.” As for REM, dreams start to occur and our brains are active. Furthermore, our heart rates and breathing rates grow irregular. 

How many hours of sleep should our youth get nightly?

As recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the following age groups should get the following amounts of sleep:

Ages 6-12:

9-12 hours

Ages 13-18:

8-10 hours

Sleep patterns may change as children get older and reach puberty, due to various age groups affecting whether the person wants to sleep in or not.

What is disrupting the sleeping patterns of our youth?

Today’s youth are facing more stress and pressure than ever before. With the multitude of expectations placed on teens these days, between their personal lives as well as the pressure to be successful, find their career path and get into college. The environment for teens nowadays is tense and stressful. In a short experiment, one man in particular asked a group of teens ages 13 to 18, to think of words to describe their lives. The words used were: full of transitions, stressful, overinvolved, complicated, anxiety-inducing and filled with uncertainty, exhaustion and pressure. It’s a known fact that our youth these days lead more stressful lives in comparison to generations in the past. 

So, what exactly is causing such a high-stress and high-pressure environment? As the author dove deeper, he discovered that a lot of teens receive notifications of their grades on the phone, meaning that while they may have the instant gratification of seeing a good grade, they also have the misfortune of seeing that they bombed a test immediately--it’s a lot and they don’t necessarily have the time to even mentally prepare before seeing it. This ‘instant access’ arises in many aspects of teens’ lives, and while it can be beneficial, it can also be extremely detrimental and overwhelming. Additionally, young teens nowadays experience heightened pressure to figure out their career paths at a young age--schools extensively ask them these questions as young as 12 years old. 

How can our youth maintain normal sleeping schedules?

It’s important to emphasize the importance of a healthy, consistent amount of sleep as a family unit. If you are surrounded by others who value sleep, it will more than likely motivate everyone in the household to sleep more efficiently. Do this by establishing when bedtime is (when the lights are being turned off) and implementing that into everyone’s nightly routine. Maintain a quiet, relaxed household when it’s close to bedtime so that everyone can wind down for the night. Read a book, listen to music, take a bath, play a board game as a family or do anything remotely relaxing so that your body can begin to relax. Avoid heavy topics that can be disheartening or a hindrance on anyone’s mood. Keep it light and spend quality time with your child before bed, no matter how “old” they are getting.

Make sure to avoid caffeine and big meals (light snacks are perfectly fine!) before bedtime and that their rooms are quiet, dark and cool (and absent of any access to the Internet/lighted screens). Most importantly, maintaining this regular sleeping schedule is important for kids. According to an article from the Nationwide Children’s website, “Your child should try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.  If he likes to sleep later on the weekends, he should wake up within 2 hours of the weekday wake-up time.” An active lifestyle will leave your child exhausted by the end of the day! If sleeping problems persist with your child, contact your doctor.