Why is my teenager sleeping so much?

When you think about it, teenagers are a lot like pandas.

Like the black and white bears, teens often have a tendency to lounge around for hours, munch their way through massive amounts of grub, and snooze for extremely long stretches.

It’s not unusual for youngsters to emerge zombie-like from their bedrooms hours after parents and little ones have arisen on weekend mornings, or have a ‘disco nap’ in the afternoon.

But how can you tell if your child’s sleeping habits or typical for a teen – or a cause for concern?

How much do teens need?

“Sleep research suggests that a teenager needs between eight and 10 hours of sleep every night, so slightly more than an adult or younger child requires,” says Dr Hana Patel, sleep expert at Time4Sleep.

“This is because teenagers need additional sleep to support their rapid physical, intellectual, and emotional development.”

Chris Tattersall, sleep expert and MD of Woolroom explains: “They are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation. Additional sleep supports their developing brain, as well as physical growth spurts.”

However, it’s estimated that most adolescents in the digital age only get about 6.5 to 7.5 hours sleep.

Tattersall says: “With the increased use of social media scrolling before bedtime, this is affecting thousands of teenagers’ sleep because the blue light from screens suppresses melatonin levels and delays sleepiness.”

What happens if they don’t get enough sleep?

Teenagers not getting enough sleep can lead to all sorts of potential issues,” says Tattersall.

Psychological symptoms may include, he warns: “Depression, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, anxiety and low self-esteem.”

Plus, there’s the risk of weight gain due to eating more sugary foods to combat tiredness.

“Not only does it have negative effects on their general wellbeing but it can also affect their academic performance,” Patel adds.

Is it possible to sleep too much?

It may seem counterintuitive, but sleeping too much can actually make young people more tired.

“Anything over eight to 10 hours of sleep for teens could be considered excessive and may cause daytime sleepiness,” says Patel.

“This can negatively affect interpersonal relationships, extracurricular activities, general health and, for older teens, driving too.”

It’s important for parents to watch for signs that teens are struggling with sleep.

“Look out for concentration difficulties, shortened attention span, memory impairment and lack of enthusiasm or energy,” Tattersall says.

“You also might notice moodiness and aggression, poor decision-making, and signs of depression.”

Patel says: “Sometimes teens may also complain of symptoms like headaches and migraines.”

Try to encourage good ‘sleep hygiene’ in terms of a youngster’s evening routine, meaning avoiding large meals and caffeine before bed and creating a relaxing bedroom environment.

“If possible, reduce the use of devices like smartphones and tablets, TVs or computers in the bedroom at night, as the light from the screens interfere with sleep,” Patel says.

“If you are concerned about your teenager’s sleeping habits and the effects of this on their health, consult with your GP.”

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