Sleep expert at the University of South Australia is reminding parents about the importance of teenagers getting enough sleep as families settle back into a school year, cautioning them that insufficient sleep can negatively affect their mental health.
In a new research paper, UniSA sleep expert Dr. Alex Agostini and Dr. Stephanie Centofanti said that sleep is intrinsically linked to mental health but is commonly overlooked by health practitioners as a contributing factor.
Dr. Agostini says it is imperative that parents and medical practitioners are aware of the bi-direction relationship between sleep and mental health, particularly across the teenage years.
“Getting enough sleep is important for all of us, it helps our physical and mental health, boost our immunity and ensure we can function well on a daily basis,” Dr. Agostini said.
But for teenagers, sleep is especially critical because they are at an age where they are going through a whole range of physical, social and developmental changes all of which depend on enough sleep.
Research shows that teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep at night, without this they are less able to deal with stressors such as bullying, or social pressure, and run the risk of developing behavioural problems as well as anxiety and depression. I
f sleep drops to less than six hours a night, research shows that teens are twice as likely to engage in risky behaviours such as dangerous driving, marijuana also tobacco usage, risky sexual behaviour and other aggressive or harmful activities.
The World Health Organisation says that while half of all mental health conditions start by age fourteen, most cases go undetected and untreated. Co- researchers Dr. Centofanti said that while many factors contribute to their bedtime for teenagers, technology is one of the greatest offenders.
“Teens spend a lot of time on devices whether its texting friends, playing games or watching videos, using technology late into the night is one of the most common disruptors of good sleep. Overuse of technology can also contribute to mental health issues likely to increase anxiety“ he added.
Not only can technology use make us feel anxious and awake but the blue light emitted from technology inhibits the production of sleep. This is problematic because teens already have a biological tendency to want to stay up late and sleep in.
To make a real difference to the mental health of a teenager, both parents and medical practitioners must understand how sleep can affect mental health in teenagers and help them scale through.
By: Peace Chigozie