Teen Talk: Sleep deprivation

Posted at 6:20 AM, Jan 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-16 07:24:30-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on teenage sleep deprivation.

Our viewer asks: "My teenage son struggles with sleep deprivation. I have a difficult time waking him up in the morning and he struggles meeting the demands of the day. There are times when he falls asleep during classes. He has tested for depression and this is not depression. How do you respond to patients who define lack of sleep as a presenting problem?"

WTXL ABC27 Contributor and Family Therapist Jane Marks weighs in:

  • Have your teen track their sleep patterns and their habits. Keep a sleep journal.  There are some essential rules of sleeping such as keeping a routine and finding ways to relax at least one hour prior to bed time.  Pick a time to go to bed at night and a time to wake up in the morning
  • Make sure you don't participate in rule breakers for sleep which include; drinking caffeine before bed, working in bed and watching television in your room. Also avoid nicotine and alcohol.  Avoid spicy and highly acidic foods.  They are common causes of heartburn which can interfere with sleep.   If this sounds familiar, remember these indeed are major sleep stealers.
  • Go beyond the eight hour rule.  For some teenagers eight hours is a must, for others five to six hours is enough sleep.  Pay attention to what is best for you and the optimal sleep time for you may be anywhere from five to eleven hours.
  • Remember sleep does change from time to time. Factors that can trigger changes include hormones, illness, injury, stress, environmental changes, heat and cold.
  • Develop a list of healthy habits that nurture sleep.  For example, exercising, keeping your room dim, keeping the temperatures down and avoiding naps are just a few health habits.
  • Evaluate the demands in your life.  If you overload yourself, again, one of the greatest sleep stealers is placing so many demands on yourself that you don't have time to let the body settle down.
  • Change catastrophic thinking.  Try to focus on your worries during the daytime and not at night.  Too many times we have racing thoughts because we save up the worries for the evening hours.  Use a time during the day that you identify as your management time to work through worrisome thoughts.  Try to stay away from them within an hour to an hour and a half before going to sleep.
  • Never try to compensate for sleep loss.  Often times people try to catch up on sleep and unfortunately what that does is disrupt your sleep cycle for the following night.  This can work against you and lead to frustration.
  • Teenagers, try to make your bedroom a sleep only zone, particularly if you struggle with sleep.  Avoid work, texting, television viewing and computer use in your bedroom.  Try to keep these activities to the family room.
  • Use simple relaxation techniques to calm your mind and body if you struggle with falling asleep.  Breathe deeply and slowly.  Concentrate on a relaxing place.  Mentally take yourself to a quiet place.  All of this helps to relax your mind and body.
  • For those who have tried all sorts of possibilities, Melatonin, a natural supplement, has been known to help with sleep and has been reported on a regular basis to improve sleep patterns.
  • There are certain foods that help with sleep.  In some cases a combination of a carbohydrate, like milk, and a protein or something a little sweet.  For some of my patients, we have found that eating a little protein goes a long way with sleep management.  It does help to stabilize blood sugar.
  • If you find yourself getting sleepy way before bedtime,  get off your couch and do something mildly stimulating, such as washing dishes or calling a friend.  If you give in to the drowsiness you may have trouble getting back to sleep.
  • Finally, if after having tried all of the above and sleep is still a problem you may want to consult a specialist who can evaluate your overall functioning.

Watch "Teen Talk" with family therapist, Jane Marks, every other Thursday at 6:30 a.m. On WTXL ABC27 News at Sunrise.