written by home doctor townsville

With busy social schedules, smartphones and study it’s a wonder how the younger generation fit it all into one day. Well, it turns out they don’t. A recent study from San Diego State University has discovered that teenagers are getting less sleep than they used to. Sacrificing precious ‘shut-eye’ to socialise and keep up with school commitments.

Through combining and analysing data from two surveys, researchers found about 40% of adolescents slept for less than 7 hours per night in 2015. This is 58% more than in 1991 and 17% more than in 2009.

What’s the reason behind this decline? The researchers noted a strong correlation between time spent online and hours slept. They observed that the more time teenagers reported to be spending online, the less sleep they got. Shockingly (or maybe not so shockingly), teens who spent 5 hours per day online were 50% more likely to not sleep enough compared to those who spent just one hour online.

“Teens’ sleep began to shorten just as the majority started using smartphones,” said researcher Professor Jean Twenge. “It’s a very suspicious pattern.”

But with smartphones and the internet playing such a large role in our daily lives, what can we do? “Given the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health, both teens and adults should consider whether their smartphone use is interfering with their sleep,” Twenge said.

How much sleep do teens need?

Adequate sleep is integral to overall health at any age. This is particularly true for teenagers as they undergo a number of developmental changes. However, teenagers get an average of 7 and 7 1/4 hours sleep each night. This is far short of the 9 to 10 hours that they require.

As a result of this, most teenagers are sleep deprived. This can have a number of negative affects on their day-to-day functioning.

  1. Moods: It can effect their mood causing them to be irritable, moody or cranky and make it difficult to regulate their moods.
  2. Behaviour: Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour.
  3. Cognitive ability: It can effect their cognitive ability causing problems with concentration, memory, decision making, reaction time and creativity.
  4. Academic performance: Due to the effect on their cognitive ability it may also effect their academic performance.

Improving sleep

  • Routine

Getting into a bedtime routine can help prepare your mind and body for sleep. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. An hour before bed begin the routine which may include taking a shower or bath, listening to soft music, reading a book or listening to a mindfulness activity. It takes 30 days to make a habit so ensure you stick to this routine for at least a month.

  • Avoid screen time

While it may be difficult, avoiding screens such as TV’s and smartphones at least an hour before bed may help. The artificial back-light of screens inhibits the production of melatonin. This is the body’s natural sleep hormone which is produced when the environment darkens.

  • Avoid foods and drinks

Certain foods and drinks may disrupt your sleep such as caffeine (chocolate, tea, coffee, energy drinks and some soft drinks). Check out this list of the best and worst foods to eat before bed.

Valerian, chamomile and lavender are great herbal remedies that may help encourage a good night’s rest. Incorporate chamomile tea and lavender essential oils into your nightly routine and see if they make a difference.

  • Make your room comfortable

Your bedroom should only be used for sleep and should be a comfortable and relaxing environment. Keep gaming consoles, TV’s, computers and smartphones out of the bedroom. Ensure you have a quiet, dark room, your bedding is comfortable and the temperature is pleasant.