Over time, the nights that they do not get enough sleep (either due to a sleep disorder or simply because they do not spend the time necessary to sleep) can lead to a sleep deficit (or lack of sleep). Adolescents with a sleep deficit cannot concentrate, study, or work effectively. They may also have emotional problems, such as depression.
What Happens During Sleep?
While we sleep, our brains go through five stages of sleep. A sleep cycle is made up of phases 1, 2, 3, 4 and the REM sleep phase (for its acronym in English; in Spanish it should be called “MOR”, for “rapid eye movements”). A complete sleep cycle lasts approximately 90 to 100 minutes. Therefore, during an average night’s sleep, a person has four or five sleep cycles.
Phases 1 and 2 are light sleep stages where the person can easily wake up:
- During these phases, eye movements slow down and eventually stop, heart and breathing rates also slow down, and body temperature drops.
Phases 3 and 4 are stages of deep sleep:
- It is more difficult to wake the person during these phases and when they wake up the person is often disoriented and groggy for several minutes.
- Phases 3 and 4 are the most refreshing stages of sleep (this is the kind of sleep we crave when we are very tired). They are also the phases of sleep during which the body releases hormones that contribute to growth and development.
The last phase of the sleep cycle is called “REM sleep” because rapid eye movements appear in it:
- During REM sleep, other changes also occur in the body: breathing and heart rate accelerate, and the muscles in the extremities do not move. This is the phase of sleep in which we have the most vivid dreams.
What is keeping teens from falling asleep early?
Research indicates that teens need about 9 hours of sleep each night. Therefore, if a teenager has to get up at 6 in the morning to go to school, they should go to bed at 9 at night to achieve 9 hours of sleep at night. Still, studies indicate that many teens have trouble falling asleep this early. This is not because they do not want to sleep, but because their brains work later and they are not yet ready for bed.
During adolescence, the body’s circadian rhythm (a kind of internal biological clock) readjusts, prompting the adolescent to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. This change in circadian rhythm appears to be due to adolescents making the brain hormone melatonin later at night than adults and children, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep.
In these cases, it is called ” delayed sleep phase syndrome “, also called “night owl syndrome.” And if a sleep-deprived adolescent takes their cell phone to bed to surf the Internet or write messages until late at night, their exposure to light can also alter their circadian rhythm, making it even more difficult for them to fall asleep.
However, the changes that occur in the internal clock of adolescents are not the only reason they lose hours of sleep. Read on to learn more about the main causes of lack of sleep during adolescence.
It is normal for a teenager to have insomnia from time to time. But when insomnia lasts for a month or more without relief, doctors consider it chronic. The chronic insomnia can be caused by many different problems, such as a medical condition, a mental health side effects of a drug or substance abuse. Many teens with chronic insomnia can get help from a doctor, psychologist, or other professional therapist.
In some teens, worry about insomnia can make their insomnia even worse. When a person becomes anxious about not being able to sleep and / or worries about feeling tired the next day, a brief period of insomnia can turn into something more lasting. Doctors call this phenomenon “psychophysiological insomnia.”