Why the chaotic dream of teenagers
Our children, who left exhausted to bed shortly after dinner, are becoming teenagers quite protesting that they can not find time to go to sleep. And when the alarm goes off, there is no one to get them out of bed. They seem lazy and lazy, but why the chaotic dream of teenagers He has a medical explanation: his biorhythm has changed, just like his body and, little by little, his personality. In a few years they will be adults.
The technical name is "phase lag syndrome", as described by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics. The simple explanation is that the start and end of sleep are delayed with respect to conventional schedules. It affects a high percentage of adolescents and, as collateral damage, to their parents and teachers. But we should not worry too much. As the song says, "they are things of the age".
"In adolescence there is a global and social change" and sleep cycles are not exempt from this transformation, explains Dr. José María Gairi, of Topdoctors. The parents were used to the children maintaining certain sleep routines and, when they reach adolescence, these rhythms change. In part, because they need less sleep than when they were little; in part, because they socialize more at night, especially through social networks; and also, because they have more responsibilities and can stay up late.
How to control the chaotic sleep of adolescents
The truth is that this behavioral change has existed in all generations. So it is not worrisome and the rhythms end up adapting to those that the rest of society maintains. However, there is a cause for alarm. If the time to go to sleep is too late, we run the risk of not getting enough sleep and that affects their performance. And, therefore, also to your state of mind.
The problem is that this lack of sleep can make one think that adolescents are lazy, that they are unmotivated, when in fact they are tired because they have changed their sleep rhythm, now they are what are known as "owls", night owls. The change is so prominent that in some British study centers for teenagers consider the possibility of delaying the time of entry into class to better synchronize with periods of vigil and rest. For parents, as Alfonso Antequera explains with respect to his adolescent son, the work It consists of maintaining a perfect balance between giving them more levels of freedom and ensuring that they get enough sleep. They need to feel older and that happens, among other aspects, to give them more court when going to bed.
But these changes are no more than others that are added to those that are experiencing our adolescents, like the physicists generated by the natural process of puberty, or behavioral. Parents of teenagers see how that child who sat at the table and barely finished the dish, now needs double ration to complete its growth process, an increase in the appetite of the speed of growth, as explained by José María Gairi.
What has happened to the teenage sleep cycle?
In many adolescents there is a change in the circadian clico, the natural cycle that marks the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. The usual thing is that these rhythms are associated with sunlight, day and night. Although they can be modified. Just think about the professions that work in night shifts.
But the truth is that the organism is prepared to adapt to light and darkness. In fact, melatonin, a hormone that has to do with the conciliation of sleep, is segregated at the time of night. Some studies carried out in adolescents show that the production of melatonin is delayed in adolescents who tend to go to bed later.
In most cases, this syndrome of delayed sleep phase will not be pathological. Simply, Young people feel more active at the end of the day and take advantage of this circumstance to carry out activities, whether social, recreational or academic. If they maintain adequate sleep hygiene, they will not have major complications. If the change of biorhythms is affecting the daily life, it is advisable to take some measures, which can begin with a good sleep hygiene, with some practices that avoid insomnia, up to a visit the specialist to check if there is an added problem that is encouraging that young man is a night owl.
Tricks to make fewer owls
The best way that the syndrome of phase lag in sleep affects little to the quality of life of adolescents is to maintain good sleep hygiene. In this way, we make sure you rest during your hours and establish a routine according to normal schedules:
- Avoid long naps. This is a key problem in the case of adolescents because in many secondary and higher education centers they are committed to the continuous academic day. The boys, who have slept little the night before, arrive home exhausted at the time of the siesta. If they are allowed to lie down, they are likely to sleep for hours.
- Explain that the bed is for sleeping and not for other purposes such as studying, listening to music or talking on the phone. One of the problems of young people is that, when the time comes to go to bed, they do it but with their brains busy in other activities. To get to sleep, you need to clear your mind.
- Avoid heavy dinners, energy drinks and other stimulants during the afternoon. A good digestion is key to conciliate sleep well. If the whole family helps to maintain a reasonable dinner schedule, with enough time before going to sleep, and limits the consumption of drinks such as sugary carbonates for holidays, we will improve the disposition of our children to go to bed. We must watch over them the excessive consumption of energy drinks, very fashionable in these ages, because they can cause adverse reactions in the heart rate.
- Practice moderate sport throughout the day. The best guarantee to be able to sleep, if there is no pathology added, is to be tired. The practice of sports in adolescents, very healthy and necessary, is also a good way to encourage your body to be tired at the end of the day and, although your mind is more active than when you were a child, you prefer to go to sleep.
- Perform some relaxing activity when it is time to go to sleep to favor the appearance of a state of sleepiness prior to bed. In many occasions it will be reading, perhaps listening to some relaxing music, not the one that induces them to follow it, sing or hum. They can take a hot shower that lowers their tension or drink some hot non-stimulating drink.
- Avoid that at the end of the day the adolescent is exposed to the excessive luminosity of the television, the computer or other electronic devices. There are numerous scientific studies that show the excess of brain activity that occurs after undergoing the multitude of sensory impacts that are received in a computer game. That is why it is important to avoid screens before going to sleep.
- Increase exposure to natural light in the morning leaving the blinds open. Although our society is not prepared to adapt to solar rhythms and our time zone makes it even more difficult, we have to enhance as much as possible that the rhythms of sleep and wakefulness are linked to the sun. Sleeping with the shutter open is a good system.