Sleep-deprived teens more likely to engage in self-harm | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I always have a good laugh when hearing my kids’ “When I grow up…” line. Many times, they don’t realize that half the things they hate are what adults would consider a luxury.

A good example is sleep. Two of my three kids don’t like to take naps and always want to stay up later than their bedtime.

Meanwhile, how I wish I could take a midday nap and go to bed earlier at night. What a treat that would be!

But children seem to think that going to sleep early will make them miss out on anything interesting their parents may be up to.

When my children were younger, I was like a sleep patrol, enforcing non-negotiable orders to ensure that they got sufficient bed rest. But now that they are older, I am
more lax because their activities and academic schedules make it harder to insist on an ideal bedtime.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the importance of sleep, wanting to again enforce strict bedtime hours at home.

There is no lack of scientific evidence that proves the necessity of sleep in the body’s growth, brain development and overall health, for all ages. With the recent spike in mental health problems and the need to address them, the spotlight is on sleep.

Doctor’s advice

Doctors have long advised parents to ensure that their children get sufficient hours of sleep to maximize their body’s growth potential to avoid sickness. How many times were we threatened as children that we would not grow if we did not sleep? There was truth to it, after all—today’s parents find themselves issuing the same threats to their kids.

Lack of sleep has been found to interfere with the hormone leptin, which signals the body to stop eating because it is full. Ironically, while lack of sleep can interfere with a body’s height growth, it can cause obesity.

Tired, sleep-deprived children tend to gravitate toward a more high-fat, high-carb diet, which they cannot burn because exhaustion makes them sedentary and unable to participate in physical activities.

Every parent knows that a baby who doesn’t get enough sleep is a cranky baby. As they get older, the patterns don’t change. A sleep-deprived toddler is likelier to have tantrums, while a school-aged child is likelier to suffer in school for inability to concentrate in class.

As children grow older, the effects become grow more serious. Based on a survey conducted by Matthew Weaver of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, from 2007 to 2015, with 68,000 respondents, teenagers who slept less than six hours a night were three times likelier to “engage in self-harm activities or to contemplate or attempt suicide.”

The sleep-deprived teens are also “almost twice as likely to use tobacco, twice as likely to drink alcohol, and more than twice as likely to use drugs or engage in risky sexual activity.”

Later years

In one’s later years, neurologists also recommend continuing to get six to eight hours of sleep to avoid Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.

As of February 2015, the United States’ National Sleep Foundation (consisting of experts from different medical groups) has been giving the following recommendation

As parents, we are always striving to give the best to our children. Simple things, such as an age-appropriate bedtime and healthy evening habits, can ensure a lifetime of wellness and safety.

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