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As learning increases, so does the brain’s need for sleep.

Have you noticed that your teenager is requiring more sleep than they used to? Or perhaps they are struggling to get up in the morning to go to school? You might find they are generally tired and sleepy during the day, however, they are going to sleep much later at night. When it comes to sleep, adolescence is a complex stage. As a parent, it is important to understand and support the sleep-needs of your teenagers. Their learning depends on it!

A teenager’s brain is undergoing serious neurological growth while at the same time their biological clocks are changing. Due to hormonal changes that occur as a result of puberty, the circadian rhythms of teenagers begin to shift. The result is a delayed circadian sleep phase which means that your teen will only feel ready for sleep much later in the night than before. With an average teen requiring about 9 hours of sleep, this delayed sleep time becomes problematic when their wake up time doesn’t shift as well. On weekends your teen may be afforded the opportunity to sleep in, however, on school days a sleep-in can be challenging or impossible. There are a number of recent studies which explore the benefit of delayed school start times for adolescents and it is anticipated that, as awareness increases, high schools will start to delay their start times to support the sleep habits of teens.

You may wonder why studies would focus on this? Why would schools consider making such a drastic change? This is because the learning that takes place in a teenagers brain is dependent on receiving adequate sleep.

Having adequate sleep supports an individual’s physical and mental health, particularly an individual’s ability to learn and recall information. It has been found that sleep assists the brain in sifting through all the information that it receives during the day and establishing information that is important to remember. This is a vital part of the learning process and as such, the more your teen needs to learn, the more sleep they need. If your teen is deprived of sleep, their ability to learn is compromised.

It is important to assist your teen in obtaining a better quality of sleep, even if the duration may not be sufficient. Here are some tips to increase your teen’s quality of sleep:

  • Ensure your teen has a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday assists the body’s internal clock.
  • Allow wind down time an hour before bed. Having screen-free time (phones, TV, devices) an hour before bedtime assists the body to prepare for sleep. Reading a novel or listening to calming music is a great activity to encourage before sleep.
  • Make sure the temperature is cool enough. Your teens body temperature is at its lowest during sleep. By ensuring that their bedroom is cool, you will promote a shift to sleep.
  • Ensure darkness. Your teens internal clock is affected by light. It is best to remove all sources of light in your teens room. Offering them an eye-mask can assist with this.

Advantage Learn really cares about the overall well-being of teenagers, not just their excellence in learning. We hope this article helps you, as parents, to understand the complexity around adolescent sleep cycles and its interaction with effective learning.

This article was originally published on 07 Aug 2018

About the author
Advantage Learn

Advantage Learn specialises in high school education in South Africa.

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