It's not something you like to hear about, but a recent study that you can read about here suggests that adolescents who suffer from insomnia have a higher risk for depression, suicide attempts, and drug use. Drug use, by the way, can be anything from alcohol to cocaine.
This is not a surprising finding, and I've talked about this in related studies in the past. But it's scary, especially if you have kids. As overworked and underslept adults I think we can forget that our kids could be suffering from problems with sleep, too. Their lives are equally as busy--and the digitization of life that is supposed to make things easier actually can have the opposite effect.
Kids no longer have to keep up with just homework, sports practices, and friendships; "keeping up" now entails incessant e-mails, text messages, cell phone calls, and such. And because they are growing up attached to their electronic devices, they are more likely to do just about everything with them, including trying to sleep.
Talking to Kids about Sleep
I'm not going to preach about parenting and what you should or should not let your kids do. But if you have a child who seems withdrawn, unhappy, angry, and uncommunicative (okay, I know this can sound like a lot of teenagers going through adolescence), you may want to open a discussion about their sleep habits.
Are they getting enough? Do they understand the value of sleep on their mood and ability to feel good about themselves? Depression can be a frightening diagnosis, especially for a parent with a kid diagnosed with the illness. It's what can lead to the thoughts of suicide and substance abuse. It's like the first domino that collapses all the remaining ones.
But here's a positive note: curing depression may sound like a tall order, but what if it could be prevented and/or eased simply through better sleep habits? Doctors can often overlook sleep habits when they're confronted with a depressed teen. Something to think about. I've always said the that sleep is a free asset in our lives, and it's medicine in its own class.
Tips for Troubled Teens
- Be open with them about their habits, from late-night use of computers and phones to how much sleep they get at night.
- Ask them how well they'd rate their sleep from 1 to 10. Do they find it easy to fall asleep and stay asleep?
- How hard is it for them to get up in the morning and feel refreshed?
- Do gloomy thoughts ruin their day? Have they ever used alcohol or drugs to feel better about themselves and the world?
All humans need adequate rest and sleep. If our kids are missing out on much needed sleep, they are missing out on more than just supreme mental health. They are losing mental sharpness, the ability to remember things, learn new tasks, solve new problems, and even the capacity to maintain a healthy body weight.
If you open up to kids and teens about the importance of sleep, and how it can make them feel fantastic all the time, they just might listen up. And sleep up.
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor