Not beastly, just tired: Teen sleep disorders can be an underlying cause of behavioral problems

When teens aren't getting enough sleep or they develop a sleep disorder, look to their before bedtime habits; it could be the activities they choose to do before sleeping that's causing the problem. Here's what to do if your teen has a sleep disorder.

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  • Teens have a lot on their minds — it’s no wonder that insomnia is becoming commonplace. Sleep disorders can also stem from too much stimulation before bedtime. Homework, sports, hobbies, friends and family all keep teens up at night. When the weekend comes, they crash and sleep half the day. This messes up their sleep schedule.

  • Ideally, teens need at least eight to nine and a half hours of sleep, but 30 percent are getting less than seven hours according to a new survey conducted by The Centers for Disease Control.

  • The Mayo Clinicstates as many as 30 percent of teens have a sleep disorder, so the sooner you talk to your teen and your doctor, the better.

  • Types of teen sleep disorders

  • Delay sleep phase syndrome

  • This disorder stems from the many changes in the body’s internal clock associated with puberty — meaning it is normal to be a night owl when your family is ready to hit the sack. It also means wanting to sleep later in the morning. It is difficult to change this pattern, and so teens end up sleep-deprived, and not getting the required hours of sleep needed to perform at their best.

  • Sleep apnea

  • This is a more serious sleep disorder in which teens can literally stop breathing at night. This keeps them from deep sleep making them exhausted during the day. A telltale sign of sleep apnea is if the teen is falling asleep in school, constant yawning and snoring. It is usually caused by a blockage in the throat, nose or mouth.

  • Insomnia

  • This is a common sleep disorder, and means difficulty getting to sleep (taking more than 45 minutes to fall asleep). Other symptoms associated with insomnia include: frequent awakening with inability to fall back to sleep, early morning awakening and feeling very tired after a night of sleep.

  • Insomnia is not usually a problem, unless it interferes with school and other activities. If your teen went to sleep late and still woke up early and felt rested, there shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Causes of Insomnia

  • There could be many reasons why your teen has a difficult time going to sleep or staying asleep. Short-term insomnia may last from a few nights to a few weeks, and usually resolves after the event has passed. Reasons for short-term insomnia include:

    • Noise

    • Illness

    • A change in sleep patterns, such as when on vacation

    • Jet lag

    • Extreme temperature changes

    • Stress

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  • Long-term insomnia can last for months, even years. Long-term insomnia may be caused by:

    • Depression

    • Chronic illness

    • Pain medications

    • Asthma

  • More serious causes could be coronary heart disease, alcohol, or drug abuse withdrawal.

  • What to do if your teen has a sleep disorder

  • Fortunately, sleep disorders in teens can be resolved with minimal treatment. In regard to puberty related sleep disorders, often the problem will go away on its own. If the sleep disorder is caused from insomnia, check with your teen about any stress he may be experiencing. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to about bothersome things will help teens.

  • Another thing that can help insomnia is limiting stimulating activities right before bedtime. If needed, extra circular activities can be changed or halted. Put limits on watching TV or playing video games or music. This can alter a teen’s sleep schedule and help him to get back on track.

  • In the case of sleep apnea, speaking with your doctor and letting them know about your teen’s symptoms can help in diagnosing sleep apnea. If your teen does have it, there is a special mask that can help the child continue breathing.

  • Most of the time, getting the right diagnosis and doctor can speed up treatment allowing your teen — and you — to get much-needed sleep.

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Julia Nielsen is currently parenting three kids with pitfalls and pleasures. She co-authored two published books in "The Crystal Locket" series, and graduated from the Institute of Children's Literature in 2005. Check out her blog: http://jewelswrites.blogspot.com

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