As the new school year approaches, students across the country are preparing to return to the wee hours.
Any parent will be delighted to get up (even if they’re not fully awake) and see them out of the house, as for some, sleeping late during the summer holidays became a major bone of contention.
However, not only have most of us been doing the exact same thing as we get older, but experts say it’s perfectly normal, and even very beneficial, for teens to sleep longer than the rest of us.
Sleep experts have long extolled the benefits of sleeping in teens, which they say have positive effects on both physical and mental health. And a new study from Brazil has suggested school hours should be changed to allow for an extra hour in bed.
The research published in the journal sleep healthfound that the teens who took part in the study felt less depressed, tired, tense, and angry than they might have with less sleep.
Sinead Lawlor, National Practice Development Co-Ordinator at the HSE, says this is not surprising. “Around the onset of puberty, teenage sleep patterns change,” she says. “Compared to childhood, there is about a two-hour physiological phase delay, which means that the teenager falls asleep later and wakes up later.
“This is caused by pubertal, hormonal and other factors, and as a result teens may not get enough sleep during the week as they get up earlier for school. This can make you sleep in at the weekend to catch up. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to problems with cognitive function and behavior, affects mood and can lead to the development of depressive symptoms and increase the risk of obesity.”
As a certified sleep consultant and mother of three, Erica Hargaden is very well placed to understand how sleep affects the health and well-being of young people.
“The idea that teenagers are lazy just doesn’t hold true,” she says. “Many suffer from sleep deprivation and allowing them to lie down and catch up on some much-needed sleep could be crucial for many. Teenagers go through tremendous development, both physically and mentally.
“They will experience changes that will affect every aspect of their lives. It is recommended that they need 8-10 hours of sleep each night, which will help them keep their physical, emotional and mental health at optimal levels. It will also help their academic performance as the brain gets the cognitive rest it needs to process and recover.”
The co-founder of babogue.com says that insufficient sleep over time can “negatively affect” her emotional development.
“They may be at greater risk of developing anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, and teens who don’t regularly get recommended sleep levels are at greater risk of diabetes and long-term health problems,” she says. “Lack of sleep can also impact decisions and lead them to engage in riskier behaviors — that’s because sleep supports a part of the brain important to impulsive behaviors. In short, getting enough sleep helps keep your teen grounded, healthy, and safe.”
She says she is more than happy to encourage her own 13-year-old son to be more quiet. “As the summer progressed, it became increasingly difficult for him to fall asleep at a normal bedtime,” she says. “I woke him up most days (for camp or other activities) and he was exhausted, took a long time to get up and then had dull eyes and begged to go back to bed.
“Every Friday he struggled – he would get snappy with his siblings, be more emotional than normal and often want to take a nap. But that is part of teenage development and after a long sleep he would appear brighter and more rested. We have a policy of making sleep a priority. We all function better when we’re rested, and if that means he has to sleep in then we’ll let him if we can.”
But mum-of-two Cliona Murphy says her daughters “spend too much time lying in bed” and she’s looking forward to them going back to school.
“Both my girls (14 and 16) don’t seem to have the drive to get up and do anything,” says the Cork woman. “When I was her age, there was no such thing as lounging after 10 a.m. on vacation—my mom would always send us a list of jobs to do.
“I try to insist, but they always make such a drama out of it – if they were in charge of earning a wage or doing the chores around the house, they probably wouldn’t waste as much time in bed.
“My husband tells me to leave her alone like he says, ‘You’re only young once,’ but it’s driving me insane and personally I think it’s a very bad workout for life.”
Ollwyn Moran, CEO and founder of Cognikids and mother of two teenage sons (17 and 15), disagrees and says she has absolutely no problem with her boys getting the extra sleep they need.
“They’re great at getting up and going to school, but they crash on the weekends,” she says. “They’re active even during the holidays, so I let them sleep in when they don’t have other commitments. I am more than happy to see them sleep, rest and recover when they can. As an early riser, I also do a few small things around the house, go for walks or meet up with friends to go swimming.
“But I wouldn’t let her sleep all day or slouch on the sofa – it’s not beneficial. I keep them active, awake and on the go. This leads to a much better quality of sleep, so if you get a lie-in, it’s actually good for your brain and body.
“We all know how we feel when we don’t get enough sleep. It’s exactly the same for teenagers, but they’re also changing physiologically, which amplifies and amplifies it. They are less able to deal with anxiety and depression. They are less resilient. So it makes perfect sense to allow them to sleep until noon if they can.”
The neurodevelopment expert says getting enough sleep is vital during puberty, but it’s important to have a few “ground rules.”
“I say leave them alone, but have a cut-off point,” she says. “It’s noon for me and if they haven’t gotten up by then, I’ll wake them up. A late morning or two is also okay, but no more. And the focus needs to be on sleep quality, meaning no screens or technology in the bedroom to reduce distractions and possible disruptions during the night.
“I’ve always spoken to the guys about the importance and benefits of sleep so they understand the ‘why’.”
Sleep expert Erica Hargaden agrees and advises parents to discuss the importance of sleep. She has a number of tips to ensure proper rest is achieved, including taking “time out” for gadgets – “not just for teenagers, but for everyone, and creating a place like the kitchen to keep all gadgets at night.” — and a consistent bedtime relaxation routine. “Open up the conversation about sleep,” she says. “And make sure your teen understands its importance to their overall health.”
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/it-makes-absolute-sense-to-allow-them-to-sleep-in-until-midday-when-they-can-the-case-for-letting-teenagers-lie-in-41932762.html “It makes perfect sense to allow them to sleep in until noon if they can” – the argument for letting teenagers sleep in