Sleep is so important for our bodies to heal and recuperate at ANY AGE, but it is especially critical for children and teens to get adequate sleep.
What happens when we sleep is that we repair our tissues, such as repair our muscles after a workout, or rebuild our skin cells or immune system. We also filter our blood through the liver and kidneys and spend time detoxifying while we sleep. We also make digestive enzymes and many of our hormones. While it may seem like a static activity, while we sleep our bodies are quite active. If we are not sleeping well, meaning going into deep sleep states, or just as commonly not sleeping enough hours each night, we are not able to keep up with those demands of our bodies.
Kids and teens that do not get adequate sleep have higher levels of stress hormones, lower levels of growth hormone and other beneficial hormones, and higher levels of leptin, which is a hormone that promotes fat retention and becoming overweight later in life. There have been several recent studies showing that kids who sleep 6 hrs or less a night have a higher chance of being overweight and also becoming insulin-resistant (or pre-diabetic) as an adult. Teens who are not getting enough sleep are also more prone to chronic fatigue, hypothyroidism, mood swings, hunger cravings and many other symptoms. Often teenagers will be up late at night, even later than their parents (!) playing games, texting, doing homework or watching tv. Their schedules are in many ways more demanding than when many of us were teens – they have increased pressures in schoolwork and exams, college preparation, school sports, and their technology-savvy social lives. While getting to bed that early may be sooner than many teens prefer to go to sleep, and some may just be getting home from work, activities or finishing homework, it is an important target to try to hit. If you aren’t getting those 9 hrs consistently during the week, making up for it on the weekends can help your body stay strong! Teenagers do need time to unwind and practice good stress management, but they also need a minimum of 9 hrs of sleep for their bodies to function at their best.