Sleep disorders in adolescents: causes and solutions

Adolescence is a difficult period in the lives of children and their parents. At the age of 12-14 years, cardinal physiological and mental changes occur in the child’s body, which are accompanied by the emergence of various problems in all areas of a teenager’s life. Insomnia is one of the common problems that impedes the full development of teenage children. Lack of sleep seriously affects the stability of the psyche, brain function and physical development, so the solution to the problem of insomnia in adolescents should not be left to chance. Parents should make every effort to help the child cope with sleep disorders and overcome one of the most difficult stages of life. The fight against teenage insomnia requires a competent integrated approach and great efforts on the part of the child’s parents.

The main problem of falling asleep in adolescence

According to statistics, approximately 30% of children in adolescence have difficulty falling asleep. The same statistics claim that the main cause of teenage insomnia is the failure of the biological clock, which is a consequence of the developmental features of the child at this age.

To effectively solve the problem of teenage insomnia, you need to accurately determine the root cause of sleep disorders. Most often, parents think that their teenage children are just naughty and attract attention, or their character has deteriorated. In part, each of the guesses of the parents is true. But scientists explain the appearance of failures in the biological clock by the physiological development of the child at a certain stage of life. According to scientific theory, the increased activity of the pituitary and hypothalamus irritates the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is responsible for the production of hormones that affect circadian rhythms – fluctuations in the intensity of processes in the body with reference to the time of day.

The problem of changing biorhythms in adolescent children is exacerbated by the need to observe a certain regime. To get to school, you need to get up early, and early awakening involves early falling asleep, with which the problem arises. Even if a teenage child lies in bed at the right time, he cannot fall asleep. As a result, lack of sleep leads to chronic fatigue and stress.  

The inability to fall asleep at the right time is not a classic insomnia, characterized by an unsatisfactory quality of sleep, because after falling asleep, the child usually sleeps well. In adolescents, another phenomenon is observed – sleep disturbance, in which falling asleep is delayed at a later time. This phenomenon is called sleep phase delay syndrome. The reason for this delay is the rapid physiological development of the child. At the end of the period of active growth in many children, this problem is solved by itself, because the body – a highly organized self-regulating system – manages to find the optimal balance between circadian rhythms and mode.

But sometimes this balance cannot be achieved. In this case, this feature of the body is preserved for life. Such people belong to the “owl” chronotype. They are not able to fall asleep and wake up early, and the peak of their physical and brain activity falls on the evening hours. If they manage to adjust social activity to their biorhythms, then the sleep phase delay syndrome, which first manifests itself in adolescence, does not cause any discomfort to such people.

Secondary Causes of Sleep Disorders in Adolescent Children

Another reason why teenage children begin to experience problems with falling asleep is the lability of the psyche and emotional instability that occurs against the background of a change in hormonal levels. Hormonal jumps, reinforced by the lack of life experience, the desire for independence and the search for their place in life, cause adolescents stress, frequent mood swings, aggression, or, conversely, apathy. The psyche, which is in the formative stage, does not cope with such a volume of work and gives a malfunction, which most often manifests itself in sleep disturbance. Against the background of these processes, adolescence can be accompanied not only by insomnia, but also by other disorders.

Ways to solve the problem, taking into account the characteristics of the development of the child

To solve the problem of falling asleep in adolescence, parents should use the following recommendations of psychologists and pediatricians:

  • it is scientifically established that the norm of sleep in adolescence is 7-8 hours.

If the total duration of sleep of a teenager is in this range, then difficulties with falling asleep do not critically affect the development of the child. If, due to circadian rhythm disturbance, the duration of sleep is insufficient, then parents should gently adjust the sleep and wake cycles, daily reducing the last by several minutes; 

  • It is recommended, whenever possible, to minimize events and activities in the child’s life that provoke overstrain of the nervous system, for example, enthusiasm for computer games and TV, attending noisy events, and involvement in an aggressive environment.

The situation around a teenage child should be friendly, calm and harmonious. A teenager should feel safe;

  • It is advisable to increase the motor activity of the child.

Physical fatigue contributes to the normalization of sleep and wakefulness. To recover from intense physical exertion, the body needs high-quality sleep, so self-regulation systems adjust circadian rhythms to ensure optimal functioning conditions. Usually children in their teens who are physically tired do not have difficulty falling asleep;

  • contributes to falling asleep performing the usual actions before bedtime. 

Nightly rituals (warm bath, brushing, reading, discussing the events of the past day with parents) help the psyche relax, and the body – tune in to bedtime.

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