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Sleep Apnea in Teens

Written by: Trinity Ong Jia Xuan


Sleep is an essential component of human life. It is a complex biological process that helps your brain with the housekeeping of information, simultaneously allowing it to retain memories in the long-term, remove harmful toxins and categorise new input, among other effects. For teens in the midst of puberty and development, sleep is even more crucial to you due to the benefits it provides in terms of ensuring proper growth. For you, the recommended duration of sleep is between 8 and 10 hours. However, with endless external distractions, stimuli and stresses in your lives, it is no wonder that many teens find that getting a good night’s sleep is a tall order.


More specifically, there are several factors that can deprive teenagers of your recommended hours of sleep, resulting in detrimental impacts on your physical, emotional and mental well-being.


For simplicity’s sake, these factors can usually be categorized into two main groups - external stimuli and biological & physiological factors.


External Stimuli

  1. Screen based devices and light exposure: Using screen-based devices such as handphones and computers right before bedtime keeps the brain active, making it difficult to sleep. Notifications from your devices can cause disrupted and fragmented sleep. Exposure to light from devices can also suppress production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes healthy sleep and helps to orient the body’s circadian rhythm.

  2. Caffeine: Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that may reduce fatigue and drowsiness. Consumption of beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee and green tea hours before sleep can impact the onset of sleep and reduce sleep time, efficiency, and satisfaction levels. Caffeine also increases daytime sleepiness, causing one to consume more caffeine, thus becoming a vicious cycle.


Biological/Physiological Factors

  1. Sleep disorders: Some teenagers have poor sleep because of an underlying sleep disorder. Adolescents can be affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. OSA frequently causes fragmented sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.


Having less than ideal sleep can have harmful impacts on teenagers, which include:

  1. Difficulties in concentration: Your concentration, creativity and problem-solving skills are not up to par when you do not get enough rest.

  2. Memory impairment: During sleep, your brain forms connections that help you process and remember new information. A lack of sleep can negatively impact both short- and long-term memory.

  3. Moodiness and aggression: Sleeplessness and mood disorders are closely linked. People who are sleep deprived have an increase in negative moods such as anger and frustration, and a decrease in positive moods. Sleeplessness is often a symptom of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. It can also raise the risk of, and even contribute to, developing some mood disorders.

  4. Increased risk of obesity: It has been estimated that for each hour sleep lost, the odds of being obese increases by 80% in adolescents. Obesity has an association with long-range health implications such as hypertension, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.


Do you want to know more about how to get a better night of rest? Fret not, here are several tips to help you achieve that goal:



  1. Choose a relaxing bedtime routine and environment: Make sure your bed is comfortable. Keep your bedroom dark at night. Your brain’s sleep–wake cycle is largely set by light received through the eyes.

  2. Maintain the same bedtime routine: Get a routine and stick to it. Try going to bed around the same time every night and getting up at the same time each morning.

    1. Maintain a proper circadian rhythm: A circadian rhythm is a repetitive period of 24 hours programmed into the body’s internal clock that reminds the body when to carry out certain functions and processes. For sleep, the main circadian rhythm used is the sleep-wake cycle.

  3. Avoid screen-based devices: Put away electronic devices for at least half an hour before bed and keep them on silent mode to avoid checking them during the night.

  4. Avoid stimulants: Avoid consumption of caffeine 6 hours before bedtime and finish eating at least two hours before your head hits the pillow.

  5. Be physically active: Get active during the day so you are more physically tired at night.

Conclusion



In conclusion, sleep plays an important role in the lives of humans, much less that of a developing adolescent like you. A lack of sleep could pose many problems to the development of a teenager, be it physically, emotionally or mentally. Therefore, do ensure that you always have a good night’s rest!


References:

  1. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/teenagers-and-sleep

  2. Insufficient Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences | Pediatrics | American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org)

  3. Sleep for Teenagers | Sleep Foundation

  4. Caffeine and Sleep (sleephealthfoundation.org.au)

  5. Mood and sleep - Better Health Channel

  6. How Lack of Sleep Affects Focus and Concentration - YEG Fitness

  7. 11 Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body (healthline.com)

  8. Sleep-stages, tips, disorders, apnoea | healthdirect



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