Sleep Anxiety And Teenagers
There are so many teenagers, boys and girls, who do not sleep well and have anxiety issues. There are some conditions that you see often and because they are not openly discussed people are unaware of the prevalence. If sleep quality is improved it seems anxiety levels also improve.
A good place to start with sleep and teenagers is Melatonin. Melatonin is a great subject for Winter and one that I have written about previously.
Melatonin is manufactured in the pineal gland, a tiny gland the size of a pea located in the middle of the brain. Melatonin can lower temperature and plays a role in proper follicle function and is important for healthy ovulation and progesterone production. Some studies show that melatonin levels drop in the first part of the menstrual cycle, at ovulation and then melatonin improves in the second half of the cycle. During the daylight and in artificial light there is very little melatonin in the body. In darkness blood melatonin levels stay elevated for up to 12 hours. An American poll revealed that on average teenagers sleep 7.6 hours a night but in fact need 8.5-9.5 hours.
The strange thing is that in teenage bodies melatonin does not naturally kick in until the early hours of the morning. This explains their desire for late nights and late sleep ins. Some theories suggest high school should start later because of this. It seems teenagers are getting less sleep yet at this crucial growth period of puberty they in fact need more sleep.
Melatonin and cortisol levels can be a good place to start with sleep disorders. However I find a lot of sleep disorders with teenagers are NOT purely to do with melatonin production however more than not the culprits are bad sleep cycles, the extent of electromagnetic radiation in the bedroom and not to mention the smart meters. Most teenagers I see use mobile phones before bed for sms/texting etc and then use it as an alarm clock next to their developing brains. This is not a good habit to get into and can affect quality of sleep and then fundamentally energy/anxiety levels the next day.
It is important to encourage teenagers to keep the sleep cycle in balance. To do this it is best to keep a fixed sleep schedule during weekdays and no more than 1-2 hours sleeping in on weekends. Otherwise teenagers can easily get into bad sleep patterns and in fact live in a state of jetlag.
It is a bit of a dilemma because the hormones in puberty are saying in many ways to go to bed later but the teens who are going to bed after 10 pm seem to be the teenagers with higher levels of depression or anxiety.
Things that can help teenagers sleep naturally:
- Diet - improve protein consumption and nutrition and reduce softdrink and sugar consumption
- Internal toxicity - caffeine, aspartame ( 961,951), cigarettes, drugs including alcohol
- Keep the bedroom electronic free - computers, ipads, mobile phones, laptops, electric blankets, Wifi, clock radios. At a minimum keep things at least 3 metres away from your head when sleeping and turn things off at the switch and remove the plug
- Keep the bedroom dark and quiet
- Consistent bed and wake time
- The hours of sleep before 12 midnight are more valuable than after midnight
- Do not eat, drink or exercise close to bed time - give yourself time to wind down
- Do not go from computer/ laptop/ipad to bed. Ideally one plus hours in between
- Meditation, relaxing music or any calming (non screen) activity to wind down
- If you read before bed pick a relaxing book to read. Not violent or distressing reading
- Check amino acids, mineral deficiencies, herbs for sleep and anxiety and hormones with your practitioner
- Discuss melatonin - do not self prescribe melatonin. You may be able to make your own with some of the changes mentioned above or you may need it only in minute doses to help trigger your own melatonin.
- L- Theanine