Research shows that teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep a night, which most teens do not reach nightly. During adolescence, the body’s circadian rhythm (like an internal biological clock) is reset, telling teenagers to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. This change in the circadian rhythm happens because a teen’s brain makes the hormone melatonin later at night than the brains of kids and adults do. However, your teen may also be suffering from insomnia, which is most commonly caused by stress. While everyone has trouble falling asleep from time to time, if your teen regularly cannot fall asleep and stay asleep, they may have chronic insomnia.
Common causes of chronic insomnia could be other medical conditions, mental-health problems, side effects of medicines, or even substance abuse. If you think your teen may be suffering from chronic insomnia, you can get help from a doctor, counselor, or therapist. However, before seeking professional help, you could attempt reducing the stress your teen feels and make sure they have a comfortable sleeping environment, as these are the usual causes of insomnia.
If you have suspicions that your teen may be depressed, this article may help you determine whether it is depression or just sadness. Feeling sad, down, or disheartened are natural human emotions and reactions to the hardships of life, but depression is different. Depression is a strong mood involving sadness, discouragement, despair, or hopelessness that lasts for weeks, months, or even longer. Depression drains the motivation, energy, and concentration of the person it affects, and it can even cause aches and pains in the body. One sign that your child may be depressed is that they are pulling away from friends, family, or activities that they once enjoyed, which will ultimately make them feel more lonely. People with depression may also feel tired and exhausted and it may take them longer to do everyday activities. And depression also has physical symptoms, such as a loss of appetite or weight gain or loss. If you believe your teen may be depressed, schedule a consultation with your pediatrician to discuss your concerns.
Acne is a problem that many Americans face, approximately 17 million people in the U.S. have acne, so your teen is not the only one. So, why do all these people have acne and where does it come from? Contrary to popular belief, acne is not caused by having dirty skin. Acne is caused by an inflammation of pores due to overactive oil glands and a build-up of oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. People between the ages of 12 and 24 are more likely to get acne because oil glands become stimulated when hormones become active during puberty. However, having acne can also be genetic, so if people in your family have acne, your teen may be more prone to having acne too.
Even though it is hard to fight genetics, there are ways to help reduce the amount of acne your teen may get!
•Make sure your teen washes their face. Washing your face is extremely important because it helps remove excess oils and dead skin that can clog pores and cause pimples. But be careful, washing the face too much can be harmful by overdrying and irritating existing acne.
•If your teen works out or tends to get pretty sweaty, have them wash their face as soon after sweating as possible, because sweat can clog pores and make acne a lot worse.
•Speaking of clogging pores, it is important to use lotions and makeup that are noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic, which means that the product won’t clog your pores.
As parents, we must take action in reducing our children’s exposure to media violence. Not only is this a children’s health issue but, unfortunately, also a public health issue. After a school shooting, politicians will examine gun control, mental health support, and media violence among other areas. Extensive research has shown that media violence can contribute to aggression and real life violence.
What are some steps we can take as parents?
1. Remove televisions, Internet, and video games from bedrooms and move them to common areas.
2. Preview or coview media of concern with our children. Discuss what is inappropriate, why it is inappropriate, and what an alternative would be to the action if there are any exposures.
3. Review music lyrics prior to purchase for both sexual and violent content.
4. Limit screen time to no more than 1-2 hours day.
5. Don’t allow video games with human targets or games in which points are awarded for killing. Kids will understand if you explain to them why these games don’t need to be purchased or played.
6. Remember that we, as parents, are role models for our children of appropriate media and music use.
7. Avoid media in children less than 2 years old- not for violence but to prevent possible language delay.
It is time to take control of our children’s exposure to media violence. Speak up to our politicians. Tell the entertainment industry. There needs to be a more responsible way to portray violence and a simplified rating system to guide parents. We want to prevent any further gun tragedies against children in the future.
Elizabeth Chea MD
Sleep is important for both children and parents. With inadequate sleep, children can be moody, fatigued, have inattention, poor school performance, increased daytime sleepiness, or even depression.
In current society, our kids have high homework loads, extensive after school activities and parents with increased work demands. These demands are causing our kids to get to bed later and are adversely affecting our kids. In addition, when our kids get to bed later, so do we.
Sleep requirements vary for different kids but typical requirements are:
- 11-13 hours a day for toddlers
- 10-11 hours a night for school age children
- 9-9.5 hours a night for teenagers
There are ways we can help to facilitate a good night’s sleep. It is important to establish a relaxing bedtime routine and a regular bedtime. Children should sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room. The room should have no distractions or activities. That means no TV, computer, video games, or cell phone. Children should have regular afternoon physical activity but not right before bed. They should have no caffeine after lunch. They should also turn off all video stimulation at 7 o’clock to allow their brain to rest before bed. Teenagers should not have cell phones in their room so they cannot be woken by texts or calls.
If your child takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep or has trouble staying asleep talk to your child’s pediatrician. Also, if you have noticed loud snoring or trouble breathing at night, they could have a medical problem affecting their sleep so call our office so we can evaluate the sleep problem further.
Elizabeth Chea, MD