Let Your Teens Sleep In: It's Good for Mental Health

For parents who are suddenly homeschooling teenagers during COVID-19, here's a tip: let them sleep in. Studies show that extra sleep for teenagers actually helps shield them against depression and anxiety.

It's true! This study from 2017 showed that teenagers with school starting at 8:30am or later had better mental health than their earlier-starting counterparts.

You might think it’s because they’re getting more sleep, but that’s not necessarily true. Even when you just look at the students who are already getting enough sleep (between 8 and 10 hours), those with later start times were mentally healthier.

That’s not to say good “sleep hygiene” can’t help. Even though everyone's schedules are messed up, I still don't think teens need to stay up late every night just because they aren't heading to school in the morning. For teenagers, healthy sleep means dialing back on the caffeine (especially after 6 p.m.), turning off electronics before bedtime, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep. Across the board, with early or late school starts, the teens who met those guidelines were less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

Here’s what one of the researchers had to say:

“Our study is consistent with a growing body of research demonstrating the close connection between sleep hygiene and adolescent mental health. But ours is the first to really look at how school start times affect sleep quality, even when a teen is doing everything else right to get a good night’s sleep. While there are other variables that need to be explored, our findings show that earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens.”

Teenagers are going through a complicated time already with all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. On top of that, they're also experiencing brain development and hormone fluxuations bearing down on them constantly. So if your teen is still in bed long after normal school start times, let the sleeping teen lie.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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