We’ve often talked about how sleep is an essential factor in our well-being. Sleep deprivation or oversleeping does affect our physical and mental health directly. So, let us this time, specifically look at how sleep is related to mental health, especially of teenagers.
We can agree that if not for any disorder, it is the technology and its overuse that inhibits sleep for most, and during the pandemic is when the overuse may have gone into overdrive for most teenagers. Considering all these factors, teens’ sleep issue seems to be a rising concern for parents as well as health professionals.
It has been established through research and observation that insufficient sleep can negatively affect mental health. With the opening of schools and the beginning of the new session, parents have been cautioned by experts to attend to this sleep concern of their children.
Studies have shown that sleep is critical for growth during the adolescent years and poor sleep patterns during this important period of life, may lead to poor mental health later in life.
In a new research paper, UniSA sleep experts Dr Alex Agostini and Dr Stephanie Centofanti confirm that sleep is intrinsically linked to mental health, but is commonly overlooked by health practitioners as a contributing factor. They go on to say that it is essential for parents and medical practitioners to be aware of this two-way relationship between sleep and mental health, particularly during the teenage years.
Dr Agostini goes on to say that getting enough sleep is important for all of us as it helps our physical and mental health, boosts our immunity, and ensures we can function well on a daily basis.
For teenagers, sleep is especially critical because they’re at an age where they’re going through a whole range of physical, social, and developmental changes, all of which depend on enough sleep. Dr Agostini further adds that research shows that teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep each night. Without this, they’re less able to deal with stressors, such as bullying or social pressures, and run the risk of developing behavioural problems, as well as anxiety and depression.
Talking about sleep deprivation and its effects the researcher also states, “If 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, alcohol or tobacco use, risky sexual behaviour, and other aggressive or harmful activities.”
Co-researcher, Dr Centofanti clearly mentions that they believe that while many factors lead to sleep deprivation in teenagers, technology is one of the greatest offenders. They then go on to add that teens spend a lot of time on devices, whether it’s 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.
Dr Centofanti believes that not only can technology make one feel anxious and awake, but the dreadful blue light emitted from these devices inhibit the production of the sleep hormone Melatonin and ends up delaying the natural onset of sleep. The researcher finds this pattern problematic as they say that teens already have a biological tendency to want to stay up late and sleep in.
It is reported that in Australia, almost one in seven children and adolescents (aged 4-17 years) will experience a mental health disorder. The WHO says that while half of all mental health conditions start by age 14, most cases go undetected and untreated. It is important to understand that sleep deprivation does affect your psychological state and mental health. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders later in life, therefore creating a vicious cycle.
With the start of the school year, it is essential that parents and the teenagers themselves realise the need for a good night’s sleep and develop a healthy and functional sleep schedule to live their best and avoid mental health issues and other related illness which could be caused by dissatisfactory sleep and sleep deprivation.
It is important to be awake during the day, instead of being drowsy and tired due to lack of sleep, to be able to absorb the world around and to be attentive during the formative years of one’s life. To make a real difference to teenage mental health, both parents and medical practitioners must understand how sleep can affect mental health in teenagers and strive to create healthy environments and enforce a good sleep schedule.
While Katy Perry might’ve said “…I can’t sleep” in her famous song, ‘Teenage Dream’, it is important to understand that an escape to the actual teenage dreamland aka sleep is essential for us all!
How does sleep deprivation affect mental health?
Sleep deprivation can cause several mental health issues, especially during the formative teenage years, although sleep deprivation affects everyone. Research has shown that sleep problems also adversely affect mood and can lead to several health problems such as anxiety and so on. It can also worsen pre-existing mental health issues.
Can lack of sleep make you cry?
Lack of sleep can very easily influence your temperament and your emotions. Sleep deprivation may make you feel irritable, agitated and at any time may make you cry as well. It is, therefore, important to get at least eight hours of sleep each day.
Written by Preeti Gokhale
The author is a sleep enthusiast. When not writing about sleep they prefer to either sleep or play games online. They also like to eat pizza and drink cranberry juice. You can often spot them on their way to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. You can connect with them via email!