We sleep a third of our life, which shows that it is an activity absolutely necessary for our physiological functions. Many adolescents sleep poorly and poorly, do not get enough rest, and that can affect their health.
Many adolescents sleep fewer hours than necessary, this can affect several facets: from their academic performance to their humor. Not everything is the fault of their bad habits, but our customs and work, school and leisure schedules do not help us either.
Minimum 8 hours for the body to function properly
Adolescents must sleep about 10 hours due to the large energy expenditure of their brain at this stage of development. But this is not so easy in practice. Due to the enormous hormonal activity that the adolescent brain is subjected to, it is very common that they do not get to sleep until late in the morning.
Most teens are night owls , and not on a whim. The biology of adolescence changes the circadian rhythm (a kind of internal biological clock), readjusts and signals the adolescent to go to sleep later at night and to wake up later in the morning. This change is due to the secretion of a hormone called melatonin , which has a biological delay in the beginning and end of its nocturnal secretion. Adolescents synthesize this brain hormone later at night than adults and children, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep. This is called ” delayed sleep phase syndrome .”
If we add to this the late-night hours you spend surfing the Internet or writing messages until late at night, your exposure to light can also alter your circadian rhythm, making it even more difficult for you to fall asleep.
Healthy practices to improve sleep quality
- Put the routine of sleeping at least 8 hours and an optimum of 10.
- Avoid exciting drinks during the afternoon.
- Avoid strenuous exercise 3 hours before going to sleep.
- Avoid the use of screens in bed (light from electronic devices can slow down the body clock, making it difficult to start sleep).
- Upon waking up, expose yourself to sunlight to help you wake up more naturally.
Brain development in adolescence
Adolescence is a period of development where there is a great energy drain . This means that your brain is undergoing changes that require high energy consumption and adequate rest.
During adolescence, the brain grows less, but its mission is to reshape existing circuits to strengthen those that are used the most and eliminate those that are in disuse. This curious process is called “synaptic pruning” and, although it begins in adolescence, it continues throughout life: experiences and learning change the structure of our brain.
What does sleep quality and brain reshaping have to do with it?
During REM sleep the synapses are consolidated, hence the importance of a restful sleep with an adequate number of hours.
We have more and more evidence that REM sleep is essential to consolidate learning and cycles with more and better REM sleep appear when we have been sleeping for many hours . So if we sleep for fewer hours than necessary, we reduce our REM sleep time and therefore make learning difficult .
School performance and sleep
If teens don’t get adequate rest, they can’t do well in school . Biology tells us that, if the melatonin peak is delayed and adolescents end up going to bed at 11 p.m., their advisable time to wake up would be 9 a.m.
The reality is that many teenagers have to get up between 6 and 7 to get to class at 8.30 or 9 in the morning, arriving at the institute in “bad condition”, without resting, without having breakfast and in a bad mood .
In addition, by not completing all the hours of REM sleep they need to fix learning, they can suffer consequences in their school performance , concentration difficulties, behavior problems or school failure.
There are studies that support the effectiveness of adapting the school hours by delaying the entry time to adapt to the biology of the adolescent .
What you should know…
- Adolescents should sleep about 10 hours due to the large energy expenditure of their brain at this stage of development.
- If teens don’t get adequate rest, they can’t do well in school.
- Avoiding the use of screens in bed is a healthy sleep practice for teens, as light from electronic devices in the hours before bed can slow down the body clock, making it difficult to get to sleep.