Today, I want to talk about how important sleep is and how it affects our mental health–especially children and teens. Many factors affect mental health, but sleep cannot be left out of the equation. In general, a 3-5 year old needs 10-13 hours of sleep, a 6-13 year old needs 9-12 hours of sleep and a 14-17 year old needs 8-10 hours of sleep.
The Importance of Sleep
Recent studies show that kids and teens are not getting anywhere close to these recommended hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation can impact their mental health by increasing their risk of depression, anxiety, academic performance, and behavior. Sleep problems also increase the risk of teen suicidal behavior, as well as risky behaviors and poor judgement. Concentration and memory are also negatively affected by lack of sleep.
Interestingly enough, our ability to regulate our emotions is highly related to the amount of sleep we get. Getting enough sleep helps kids and teens deal better with stress, social pressure, and overall better decision making.
Sleep and Mental Health are Closely Linked
There is a clear connection to lack of sleep and poor mental health in kids and teens. According to one study, 60% of middle schoolers and 70% of high schoolers report inadequate sleep on school nights. So, when we see behavior problems, lack of attention, trouble remembering, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, impulsive decision making, sadness, and anger we may want to find out if the child is getting enough sleep regularly. Sleep deprivation affects all of us negatively, but it is worse on kids and teens. Essentially poor sleep is both a cause and symptom of mental health.
Signs that lack of sleep is affecting your mental health:
- feeling tired throughout the day
- having trouble with memory
- falling asleep during the day
- making mistakes and not catching simple errors
- racing anxious thoughts when trying to sleep
- trouble waking up
Tips for helping your child get the sleep they need:
- setting deadline for getting off phone, tablet, computer, gaming system-1 hour before bedtime
- limit caffeine intake
- get plenty of exercise
- develop a consistent sleep schedule
- dim lights and try deep breathing before falling asleep
- place phone, computer, etc on silent or in another room so that you are not waking up to check it
- having bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
- relax before bed (read or listen to music)
- avoid heavy foods before bedtime