📚Why You Need to Treat Your Teen’s Insomnia Now
Getting enough sleep is an essential part of staying healthy, but in today's busy world it can seem like an impossible task. For teens, it can be even more complicated. Their schedules get overloaded by school and extracurricular activities and any spare time gets taken up by texting with friends and trying to stay on top of everything going on in their lives.
Insomnia might seem like a regular part of being a teenager but letting it continue unchecked can lead to all sorts of negative physical and mental health consequences. How common is insomnia in teens? Why do you need to help them manage their sleep deficits as soon as possible?
Some Alarming Statistics
We define insomnia as the inability to fall asleep or difficulty staying asleep numerous times during the week. It becomes a problem when we can't sleep on a regular basis. It graduates to insomnia disorder of it happens three or more times a week, and persist for three months or more.
Insomnia in adults is something that we disregard as a fact of life. There just aren't enough hours in the day to work, keep a house, raise children, workout and keep up with everything that we consider important. In some parts of the world, working long hours and staying awake until you collapse from exhaustion is considered a point of pride. In Japan, they even have a name for it — karoshi, which translates to "death by overwork."
In teens, insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. According to studies, it affects an average of 10.4% of teens between the ages of 13 and 16, though it can range anywhere from 4% to 39% when you consider other criteria. Girls are more likely to experience insomnia than boys
What Causes Insomnia in Teens?
Insomnia in teens is more common than you might think, but its causes can be as many and varied as the teens themselves. Causes of chronic insomnia vary from person to person, but common causes include:
Medical Conditions — All sorts of medical conditions can make it difficult to sleep, from allergies and asthma to chronic pain and other neurological conditions. This is something that can only be diagnosed by a trained physician. Don't self-diagnose without taking a trip to the doctor.
Mental Health Concerns — Insomnia is often a symptom of both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health concerns.
Medication Side Effects — Numerous medications list insomnia and other sleep disorders as common side effects. You may have to switch medications or look into sleep aids to help your teen get enough sleep.
Substance Abuse — Many popular drugs are stimulants, making it impossible for your teen to get the sleep they need. Substance abuse is an entirely separate problem that you'll need to address with your child and the help of a professional.
Stress — Sometimes, something as simple as stress can keep your teen from sleeping. Worrying about not being able to sleep can make it harder to catch those z's too, compounding the problem.
Whatever the cause, sleep deficits can have a number of dangerous consequences.
Sleep Deficit Consequences
Untreated insomnia can have a variety of physical and mental health consequences. On the physical side of things, insomnia can cause or exacerbate different medical problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Adults who get less than six hours of sleep night more than double their risk of heart attack or stroke. While the risks aren't as high for teenagers, there are still plenty of negative consequences.
For teens, who spend most of their days trying to cram for their next exam, insomnia can make it harder for them to concentrate and memorize the things they need to pass their classes. Both sleep deprivation and insomnia are also linked to mental health problems from anxiety and depression to mood swings and anger.
If your teen has their driver's license, sleep deprivation can be incredibly dangerous. Being awake for 24 hours slows reaction times so much that it's roughly the equivalent of a 0.10 blood alcohol level. Letting them get behind the wheel after not sleeping could end in tragedy.
Treating Teenage Insomnia
Treating teenage insomnia isn't always easy. Now that you know the potential impacts of sleep deprivation on your teen, the best suggestion is to talk to both your teen and your family doctor. Some causes, like stress and overscheduling, are things that you can address by changing your lifestyle, while others — like physical or mental health concerns — are something that you'll need a doctor to diagnose and treat.
Regardless of the cause, if your teen is suffering from insomnia, it's essential that you start treating it as soon as possible. It can have a large number of far-reaching consequences, many of which you can prevent by addressing them as soon as you realize that there is a problem. Everyone needs to get enough sleep at night. Don't let stress or other issues keep your teen from catching their z's.