Your teen may appear moody, tired and depressed when she does not get adequate sleep.

The Effects of Lack of Sleep in Teenagers

by Becky Swain

Parents who set bedtime routines for their toddlers and established good sleep habits for their older children face a new sleep challenge related to their teenagers. Teens tend to fall asleep and awaken later when their biological clock changes during adolescence, and they often do not receive the recommended 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of nightly sleep. Parents can recognize some of the effects of lack of sleep for their teenager and encourage better sleeping habits.

1. Emotional Concerns

An increased risk for anxiety and depression accompanies the new freedoms, responsibilities and additional demands on an already crowded agenda that your teenager juggles on a daily basis. Add the issues of facing new social dilemmas, weighing options related to higher education and possibly working a part-time job after school, and it’s understandable why your teenager may appear moody, fatigued and depressed. A lack of sleep influences feelings of sadness and depression, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org, and it exacerbates anxiety by increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

2. Safety Concerns

Falling asleep in a classroom can produce academic repercussions for your teenager, but falling asleep behind the wheel of a car can be a life-altering event. Driving represents a long-awaited privilege that symbolizes the transition into young adulthood and an unparalleled sense of independence for teens. Accidents involving sleepy drivers are more common for drivers less than 25 years old, according to child development experts at the Kids Health website. Among teenage survey participants, more than half admitted to driving a vehicle while drowsy, and an alarming 15 percent reported driving while drowsy at least one time per week.

3. Risk for Obesity

Teenagers who receive adequate sleep are less likely to develop obesity, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The study did not report a cause-and-effect connection between increased sleep and decreased body-mass index, but it did suggest an association between the variables. The results of the study revealed that increasing hours of sleep from eight to 10 hours per night at age 18 could produce a 4 percent decrease in the incidence of overweight teens. The researchers reported that adding an additional hour of sleep produced a diminished body-mass index for teens.

4. Support Good Sleep Habits

Respond to the negative effects of teen sleep deprivation by discussing modifications in your teen’s daily routines. Don’t feel disappointed if your suggestions don’t receive applause from your teenager. Encourage your teen to engage in at least 60 minutes of exercise during the day and to establish a regular time for sleep. Turning off all electronic devices is the least popular suggestion for better sleep for socially connected teenagers, but the devices discourage sleep by keeping your teen’s brain wired for action.

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