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Good sleep hygiene for teenagers is key to mental wellbeing. Here’s why

0 1 week ago

I Think This Is a Sleep-Wake Disorder ...

Tiger sits in his room carefully painting a small canvas, his cat curled up on his bed.

“Fort Tiger” reads a hand-drawn shield artwork hung above the 14-year-old’s study desk.

But last year the room became anything but a place of sanctuary and protection.

For six months he struggled to get to sleep before midnight and was waking at odd hours.

The next day felt impossible.

“I’d just try to get up but I couldn’t,” Tiger recalled.

He began many days crying as he again missed another bus to school.

His self-esteem plummeted and his depression and anxiety worsened.

“Like a vicious cycle of not being able to sleep and then having not great mental health, and then the mental health causing me to not get great sleep,” he said.

Something had to change.

For teenagers like Tiger, a lack of sleep and poor night-time routines at a sensitive developmental period are leaving them vulnerable.

Clinical teen sleep psychologist Cele Richardson said poor sleep can be linked to depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

“We are building stronger evidence for the really important role that sleep plays as a risk factor for mental health problems,” Dr Richardson said.

recent Australian study of more than 500 young people aged 11 to 16 years old, found poor sleep predicted increases in generalised anxiety, social anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

“Sleep disturbance and RNT [repetitive negative thinking] should be targeted simultaneously in the prevention and treatment of social-emotional disorders in adolescence,” the five-year study concluded.

With a perfect biological and psychological storm stealing their slumber, experts are calling for sleep to become a mainstay of teen mental health treatment.

But first, what does good teen sleep look like?

Good sleep is important for all of us, but it’s more crucial to teenagers than any other age group.

And what kids need is a bit different.

About a quarter of Australian 12- to 15-year-olds and half of 16- to 17-year-olds aren’t meeting minimum sleep guidelines on weeknights, leaving them more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression.

So what is standing in the way of getting to sleep and staying asleep?

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