It seems like irregular sleeping patterns are practically a requirement for being a teenager. This is particularly true because kids in this age group have to wake up so early for school, while still frequently pulling all-nighters during the week in order to finish school projects, cram for exams, or engage in late-night hobbies and socialization. Although this may sound like a perfectly normal teen existence, experts recommend that teens get at least nine hours of restful sleep every night in order to avoid a whole host of physical and mental problems that might otherwise be avoided. Is your teen’s lack of sleep a sign of a bigger problem? While most teenagers experience at least some sleep deprivation and odd sleeping habits, excessive sleepiness or lack of sleep may be indicative of a larger problem than simple internal clock disorder, and often requires medical consultation. Some things to watch out for:
- Depression. May result in fatigue, loss of energy, apathy, and insomnia. If you are concerned that your child may be depressed, contact a health professional.
- Insomnia. Difficulty falling or staying sleep that occurs for many nights may be a sign of insomnia. Insomnia is frequently caused by stress, but could also result from a chronic condition that may require medical help.
- Medication side effects. Certain medications can cause drowsiness, night terrors, sleepwalking, and other sleep-related maladies. Check with a doctor about potential sleep-related side effects and assess your options.
- Drug or alcohol use. Caffeine, cigarette, alcohol, and drug use can all cause difficulty sleeping and fatigue. Caffeine, in particular, may sneak into your teen’s diet via late-night chocolate, pain pills, or vitamin drinks.
- Sleep Apnea. This sleep disorder causes breathing difficulties while asleep, which results in disruptive and low-quality sleep. Snoring is another symptom of sleep apnea.
- Narcolepsy. While naps are a pretty normal response to being tired, sudden or unusual sleep during daytime hours may indicate an inability to stay awake. This is particularly dangerous if your child drives, as they may uncontrollably fall asleep at the wheel.
- Restless Leg Syndrome. This is a condition in which may prevent your teen from getting quality sleep due to unconscious movement during sleep.
So, while staying up late may be a classic staple of teenage life, parents should still keep an eye out to make sure that lack of sleep is a symptom of being a teen, rather than a symptom of a legitimate health or mental health issue.