Surly Teenager Syndrome

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • Are your kids getting enough sleep? How about your teenagers? How much sleep do children need anyway?


    A baby seems to sleep almost all the time. According to Baby Center, children up to three years need a lot of sleep.

    Including night sleep and daytime naps, 15 hours isn't unusual. Unfortunately, baby doesn't always choose to sleep the same hours as Mom and Dad.


    How about toddlers? Ages 1 to 3, we're still in that 12-15 hour bracket. By the time your little one approaches four years old, however, he or she is beginning to need a bit less sleep - 10 to 12 hours, dropping to anywhere from 8 to 10 hours each night until they reach the teen years.

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    This is where the problems arise. Teenagers are busy people, with school, after-school jobs and homework. Add to that, extra-curricular activities and a social life and there seems to be little time for sleep. It seems strange, but kids, as they move toward adulthood, need more sleep than their younger siblings do. 9 to 10 hours or even more every night would be ideal.


    Hormonal changes may be partially to blame. Teenagers seem to be unable to sleep before midnight and can hardly stay awake in the morning. With school days beginning earlier, this sometimes means that at least a segment of the students drows through early classes.


    Lack of sleep is making teenagers, not only drowsy, but also sullen and angry. In fact, a new phrase has been coined to describe today's attitude. They are said to be suffering from "surly teenager syndrome." These kids seem to be getting enough sleep, perhaps 7 or 8 hours a night, but experts suggest that even one more hour's sleep a night could improve the mood.


    Dr. Greg Murray of Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria, Australia states: "The tendency of many teenagers to go to bed late has been dismissed for years as laziness." He adds that research has shown that the sleep/wake timing of teens is genuinely different from adults.


    The fact is that if the majority of teenagers were left to their own time schedule, they would be night owls. Adolescents need about nine to 10.5 hours of sleep per night, but many don't get it. And as they progress through puberty, teens actually need more sleep. Because teens often have schedules packed with school and activities, they're typically chronically sleep deprived (or lacking in a healthy amount of sleep).


    And sleep deprivation adds up over time, so an hour less per night is like a full night without sleep by the end of the week. As well as the moodiness and bad temper, sleep deprivation can lead to:


    •  decreased attentiveness
    •  decreased short-term memory 
    •  inconsistent performance
    •  delayed response time


    These can cause, problems in school, stimulant use, and driving accidents (more than half of "asleep-at-the-wheel" car accidents are caused by teens).


    Adolescents also experience a change in their sleep patterns - their bodies want to stay up late and wake up later, which often leads to them trying to catch up on sleep during the weekend. This sleep schedule irregularity can actually aggravate the problems and make getting to sleep at a reasonable hour during the week even harder.


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    Ideally, a teenager should try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, allowing for at least 9 to 10.5 hours of sleep.

Published On: April 07, 2008