Lack of Sleep Hurts Tweens and Teens

We all know that not getting enough sleep is a common problem nowadays.  But do you realize that lack of sleep can be hurting your tweens and teens?  Do you know the effects of not getting enough sleep?

A few years ago I did a lot of research and wrote quite a long article telling about why your teens and tweens need more sleep.  I’ve decided that this is such an important topic that we need to revisit it.  This article is the first in a new series on sleep for tweens and teens.

So, again I’ve done a bunch of research on the topic and I want to share what I’ve found with you.  I dug through scientific studies, journal articles, and professional polls.  And now I’m going to break it down so you have the information you need.

I’ve also made a new set of sleep printables for you to print out and track the sleep of your kids (and you, too).  The sleep printables are free because I want you to get them and get started right now.  Us moms need to keep our families healthy, and tracking sleep is something you can do today.

This article is going to ask some of your most worrying questions about teens and sleep:

  • Does lack of sleep affect mental health?
  • Can lack of sleep make it harder to learn and remember?
  • Can lack of sleep make you sick?
  • Does lack of sleep cause weight gain?
  • Can lack of sleep cause high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems?
  • Can lack of sleep lead to sports injuries?
  • How many hours of sleep do teenagers need?
  • How can I be sure my teens are getting enough sleep?

Inadequate sleep can lead to very significant consequences for your well-being as well as your overall health. Let’s explore just how lack of sleep can impact your emotional, mental, and physical health.

Does Lack of Sleep Affect Mental Health?

The 2023 Sleep in America poll done by the National Sleep Foundation found that “sleep health is strongly associated with mental health.”  People who don’t get enough sleep are far more likely to suffer from depression.

Sleep and mental health are deeply interconnected. Sleep deprivation can contribute to the development or worsening of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. A sleep deficit can heighten emotional reactivity, making it more challenging to regulate your emotions effectively. It can also lead to increased irritability, mood swings, and a general decline in overall emotional well-being. 

Interestingly, there have been studies that emphasize the comorbidity (meaning both symptoms are present in the same person) of lack of sleep and psychiatric issues.  There was research done that showed that out of a group of 106 kids between the ages of 7-16 who were hospitalized for psychiatric issues, 95% of them also had sleep problems.  The researchers aren’t sure about cause and effect, but it’s very concerning, to say the least.

Similar sleep issues have been seen in a number of specific patient populations, including kids with “depression, ADHD, impulse control disorders, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, indicating a key role of sleep in adolescent mental health.”

Lack of Sleep Can Cause Impaired Cognitive Function 

One of the most immediate and well-known effects of bad sleep is impaired cognitive function…in other words, you can’t think straight or learn well.

Not getting enough sleep can cause your teens and tweens to experience difficulties with memory retention.  Their concentration levels, problem-solving, and decision-making can be hampered.

Sleep deprivation can also greatly hinder creativity.  Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can impair their overall cognitive performance and affect your tween’s productivity at school.

This article from The National Sleep Foundation explains how sleep and memory are linked.

Can Lack of Sleep Make You Sick?

Lack of sleep can make you sick by weakening the immune system.

Adequate sleep has a crucial role in promoting the positive health of your immune system. During sleep, your body releases proteins that are known as cytokines, which help to regulate your immune responses.

If your teens and tweens don’t get enough quality sleep, their immune systems can be compromised, which in turn can increase their chances of catching illnesses such as colds and the flu. 

Does Lack of Sleep Cause Weight Gain?

Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, and studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity.  

We all know that obesity has increased significantly in recent decades as well as the prevalence of diabetes.  We all also know that people in general have been getting less sleep.  Scientists are beginning to understand how those facts are linked.  

Bad sleep can disrupt the balance of hormones involved in appetite regulation, leading to weight gain and a much higher risk of metabolic disorders. Sleep deprivation alters the levels of ghrelin and leptin, which are the hormones that are responsible for regulating satisfaction in relation to hunger (and hunger as well). When you don’t get enough sleep, your body may experience an increase in ghrelin levels, leading to cravings for high-calorie, unhealthy foods. 

Additionally, sleep deprivation can impair insulin sensitivity, which unfortunately can increase your risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes. 

Can Lack of Sleep Cause High Blood Pressure or Cardiovascular Disease?

Sleep also has a vital role in cardiovascular health. Sleep deprivation that has become chronic has been heavily linked to a higher risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure,  strokes, and heart disease. 

Poor sleep quality and short sleep sessions actually disrupt your normal heart function, elevate your blood pressure, and contribute to the development of inflammation within the body. 

The National Institute of Health funded a study that found “teens who slept less than 7 hours a night, nearly a third of the participants, tended to have more body fat, elevated blood pressure, and less healthy cholesterol levels.”

Impaired Physical Performance Caused by Lack of Sleep

Sleep is crucial for physical recovery and optimal performance.  Many teens and tweens participate in sports and other physical activities such as dance.  Athletes and individuals engaging in physical activities require sufficient sleep to repair their muscles, restore their energy levels, and promote overall efficient recovery.

I found a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that concluded “Chronic lack of sleep in adolescents is associated with greater risk of sports and musculoskeletal injuries.”

Attempting to operate on low amounts of sleep can lead to decreased athletic performance, impaired degrees of coordination, and slower reaction times.  That can have dangerous consequences and can lead to an increased risk of injuries.

So How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teenagers Need?  And How Can I Make Sure My Teens Are Getting Enough Sleep?

According to Dr.Michael Crocetti, the Chief of Pediatrics at John Hopkins University, tweens and teens need 9-9 ½ hours of sleep per night.  

Download my Sleep Printables Set so that your tweens and teens can track their sleep.  Try just tracking what is going on for now without making changes – maybe give it a few days or a week to just see what the situation currently is.  

Next week I’ll be back with an article about next steps.  Sign up for my email list so you don’t miss anything!  And if you want to learn more and start making improvements now, read my earlier article, Your Teens Need More Sleep.

lack of sleep can hurt tweens and teens
lack of sleep can hurt your teens and tweens
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