What’s happening to our teens nowadays? CNN came out with an article recently quoting some studies that reported more than half of a 262 person sample being “excessively sleepy.” Apparently teens are only getting about 6 hours of sleep on school nights and 8 hours on the weekend? I’m among those who believe that nothing is a problem unless it’s a problem; however, I do know that sleep is the foundation for mental health and studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to depression. Who’s the culprit and what can we do about it?

There’s a lot going on as a teen. In my own practice I’ve noticed an increase in anxiety among teens due to mounting academic pressures. I would say even more so than this is the access to technology without the maturity to know how to use it (which arguably we all suffer from).

What do I mean by this?

The teens I work with are up till late hours of the night interacting on Facebook, Twitter and texting hundreds of times.

There are all kinds of theories on sleep, but it simply makes sense that the more light is around us, the more the brain would get confused when it’s time to fall asleep. We can do research and talk theories until we’re blue in the face; this just seems like a very logical idea.

The next logical idea is that the less sleep we get, the more imbalanced we are physically and mentally, and therefore we are far more likely to get our buttons pushed that lead us into states of anxiety or depression.

For teens, as this happens, it becomes more difficult to concentrate at school, making the pressures mount about academic competition. The more this happens, the more attractive the neuroenhancers seem like Adderall, Ritalin or even crystal meth. Which of course, lead to less sleep, among other detriments.

So, for our teens (and ourselves), it’s important to put boundaries on our social connectivity instruments.

  • Explain to your teen the need for boundaries with the computer, television and phone. You might even ask them how they feel after a short night of sleep to help them understand that over time, this leads to greater consequences and you love them and want what’s best for them. This last piece is very important as teens need this assuring positive reinforcement even if they shrug it off.
  • Remain consistent when the teen breaks the rules. If you have an agreed consequence (e.g., no phone for a day), that needs to be discussed and enforced.
  • Be a good example. Perhaps adults could also learn from these boundaries, see if you can set a good example, perhaps even making the agreement that you’ll both do it.

This isn’t an easy scenario and so the best we can do is learn from one another.

Have you encountered this with teens, what’s worked for you, what difficulties have you had?

Please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.