Do Teens Get Enough Sleep -- or Too Much?
My teenage son sleeps all the time. Is this normal or is something wrong with him?
Teenage sleep patterns can seem eccentric to parents -- and could signal a health problem. Thyroid problems, for example, can alter energy levels and change sleeping patterns. If you're worried your teen is sleeping too much -- more than eight to ten hours per night -- you might consider taking him to a doctor for a physical checkup. Children who sleep too little should go in for a checkup as well. You might also consider the possibility of an emotional or psychological problem. Depression, which can affect sleep patterns, is now being recognized in more teens.
If your son's physical and emotional health check out fine, consider how much exercise he's getting, as well as how he's eating. Eating a lot of sugar, for instance, can give you a rush which is followed by a crash -- a feeling of lethargy, depression, or just sleepiness. People who don't exercise enough (adults as well as teens) also tend to feel more tired and less energetic.
That said, sleep is a good thing -- especially for young children and teens. New research from Israel suggests cognitive development and behavioral and emotional problems are tied to sleep -- and teens may not be getting enough. The study, published in the May issue of "Developmental Psychology," found that family stress may contribute to a child's abnormal sleep. Older kids in the study slept less because of increased school demands -- and because they wanted to feel more like adults by having a more active night life, watching late night television, or surfing the net.
You might take these findings into consideration when you assess whether your son is really sleeping too much. Personally, I think sleep deprivation is a much bigger problem in this country -- we tend to equate sleep with laziness instead of restoration. Many Old World countries view an afternoon nap, at any age, as both healthy and normal. Energy levels, mood, immune system function, and memory are all affected when we don't get enough sleep.