Why Is My Teenager So Tired
Sleepiness is a common problem in teenagers and a serious one. The biggest risk to teenagers is from automobile accidents, and drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving in terms of risk. All teenagers seem a bit sleepy compared to their younger selves. This is partially due to a biological shift in their circadian, or body clock. This means that their natural (physiologic) sleep period is shifting later. That is to say, their bodies want to go to sleep later and get up later. Unfortunately, in most school districts, this coincides with early school start times.
Teenagers are notorious for being tired all the time. They have a lot on their plates, including homework, extracurricular activities, family responsibilities, and more. Sleepiness is a common problem in teenagers and a serious one. The biggest risk to teenagers is from automobile accidents, and drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving in terms of risk. All teenagers seem a bit sleepy compared to their younger selves. This is partially due to a biological shift in their circadian, or body clock. This means that their natural (physiologic) sleep period is shifting later. That is to say, their bodies want to go to sleep later and get up later. Unfortunately, in most school districts, this coincides with early school start times. In addition, many teens’ lifestyles involve staying up late at night watching TV or playing video games.
There are several reasons why someone might be drowsy behind the wheel of a car. First off, it’s important to note that there are two types of sleep deprivation – acute and chronic. Acute sleep deprivation is when you haven’t slept enough hours during a 24-hour period. Chronic sleep deprivation is when your sleeping patterns are out of sync and thus interfere with normal physiological processes. When you’re chronically sleep deprived, your brain produces higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone). Cortisol increases alertness and decreases fatigue. It also interferes with glucose metabolism which makes you feel lethargic and irritable. You can experience both forms of sleep deprivation but it typically takes longer to develop chronic sleep deprivation than acute. For example, if you stay up too late every night before going to work, you could become acutely sleep deprived. However, if you keep doing this over an extended period of time, you will become chronically sleep deprived.
What Causes Drowsiness?
The primary reason why we get drowsy is because our brains need restorative sleep. During sleep, your mind restores what’s known as memory consolidation. Without sufficient sleep, your ability to learn new things, remember where objects are kept, and recall past events will decrease. Your motor skills will also suffer. While these effects aren’t life threatening per se, they do affect how well you function each day. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may find yourself falling asleep while driving, having trouble concentrating, becoming easily frustrated, etc.
How much sleep should you be getting? According to the National Institutes of Health, adolescents aged 11 to 17 years need between nine and ten hours of sleep each night. Children under age eight don’t require nearly as much sleep as older children and adults. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. One study showed that people who got less than five hours of sleep were significantly more likely to report poor health days and lower cognitive performance compared to those who averaged seven hours of sleep each night.
One thing to keep in mind is that how much sleep you need changes throughout childhood development. As kids grow into young adulthood, they’ll need fewer hours of sleep. Research has shown that college students studying for exams actually perform better after they’ve gotten adequate amounts of sleep. Additionally, studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to have improved moods and better daytime functioning.
Tips for Improving Alertness
While there are no guarantees in life, here are some tips for improving alertness based on research findings. First, make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep. Next, try to stick to a regular bedtime schedule. Going to bed earlier does not necessarily mean you won’t fall asleep faster. Instead, you may just be able to wake up sooner. Finally, avoid caffeine consumption right before bedtime. Caffeine causes insomnia by increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Avoid alcohol as well since it tends to cause drowsiness, especially in combination with other depressants like prescription sedatives. Lastly, exercise regularly. Exercise helps increase endorphin production which improves alertness. Also, exercising outdoors reduces exposure to light pollution so you can focus more on focusing.
If you think your teen driver needs to improve his or her sleep habits, consider talking to them about it. Many parents are concerned about their child’s safety behind the wheel and rightfully so. Here are some questions to ask your teenager to help determine whether he or she is suffering from chronic sleep deprivation:
1. Do you feel groggy upon waking up in the morning?
2. Are you yawning frequently throughout the day?
3. Does it take you awhile to decide what to wear each day?
4. Has your appetite changed lately? Have you gained weight recently?
5. Do you notice that you are feeling grumpy and short tempered?
6. Do you have trouble remembering things?
7. Do you often forget meetings and appointments?
8. Do you feel like you’re always tired?
9. Do you have difficulty starting tasks?
10. Do you have problems concentrating?
11. Do you have headaches consistently?
12. Do you snore loudly at night?
13. Do you believe you could benefit from additional sleep training?
14. Would you benefit from seeing your doctor?
15. How would you describe your current state of sleep?
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