Increased depression can have a negative effect on the quality of sleep, and poor quality sleep can increase depression. That’s fairly well-covered ground. What’s notable, especially if you’re a parent, is that setting an earlier bedtime for children can decrease risks of depression.
In a sleep research study, scientists studied the sleep and depression in adolescents, grades 7–12. They discovered that earlier parental-set bedtimes may help protect against adolescent depression. Though it is often assumed that teens need less sleep as preteens,the results from this study indicate that setting earlier bedtimes actually helps lengthen sleep duration. Getting quality sleep through childhood and adolescence helps curb risk for suicidal ideation.
Columbia University Medical Center researches in 2009 discovered that not only were adolescents with later parental-set bedtimes (midnight or later) more likely to suffer depression, they were 25 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Twenty percent of the same study participants were 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation than those with bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. James Gangwisch, Ph.D., who led the study, explains why the study focused on parental-set rather than adolescent reported bedtimes. Teens who experience depression are more likely to go to bed late or have erratic bedtimes. Parental-mandated bedtimes, however, were more likely to result in earlier and consistent bedtimes.
But how do parents get their kids to bed earlier, especially when their kids are teenagers, arguably the least compliant age-group of all?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) website offers excellent data on the sleep needs of teenagers, the consequences of getting poor sleep, shifts in biological sleep patterns and more. If you’re the parent of a teen, you may want to sit down with your teen and go through this resource. It’s possible that learning more about how important sleep is to their well-being may come a long way in persuading them to change their bedtime habits.
Most teens need between 8–10 hours of sleep per night, and preteens need between 9–11. When students’ sleep dips below the recommended amount, their capacity to learn suffers. Not only will their performance as a student be affected, there are physical consequences too. Teens are more susceptible to acne. In addition, cravings for junk food increase with sleep deprivation, which may result in weight gain. Behaviorally, sleep-deprived teens are more aggressive and impatient. This affects not only their relationships with authority, but with friends and family too.
Make an earlier bedtime a bit more appealing and commit to improving your sleep habits.
Teens share a lot of the same dissatisfying consequences of poor sleep as adults. The recommendations for changing habits to improve sleep hygiene are similar for both groups as well. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that teens limit the use of caffeine and electronics before bedtime. Other tips include setting a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. As a parent, consider sitting down with your teen to go over the research links between sleep and depression. Set a bedtime you both can agree on. It may help if you agree to practicing good sleep hygiene as well.
Watch for signs of depression.
Your child or teenager can experience depression regardless of how much sleep they get. Be sure to watch for symptoms such as excessive worry, nervousness, or hopelessness about the future. An NSF poll reveals that, though adults typically believe youth have little to worry about, more than half of the adolescents polled report excessive worry and stress. Seventy-five percent of the subjects who scored highest on the depressive mood score also report getting insufficient sleep.
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