Is Your Teenager Getting Enough Sleep?

The writing is literally on the wall in the waiting room of the Daniel J. and Maria H. Sak Sleep Wellness Center of the Blanchard Valley Hospital— bold black letters which simply spell “SLEEP.”

If you think only adults struggle with sleep problems, think again. According to Daniel J. Sak, doctor of osteopathic medicine and medical director of the Center, his patients include several adolescents aged 12-18. Teens who seek help for sleep problems tend to be on opposite ends of a lifestyle spectrum.

“One of the biggest problems I see among teens in Findlay is a busy, fast-paced schedule. Between school studies, athletic practices and games, instrumental music, choir, dance, cheerleading, faith-based activities and social engagements, there is not enough time in a 24-hour day to get everything done and have adequate time to sleep,” he said. “On the other end of the spectrum, there are adolescents who are troubled and have too much time on their hands with consequent substance issues and risky behavior. Both of these lifestyles contribute to poor sleep habits and the perpetuation of poor outcomes in school and poor social interactions.”

Signs of sleeping disorders include daytime fatigue, difficulty maintaining attention due to exhaustion and struggles in school.

The common mistake

Insomnia is the most commonly presented complaint when a parent arrives with a child at the Sleep Wellness Center. But the correct diagnosis tends to be what Dr. Sak refers to as delayed sleep phase syndrome. “Most of this is related to a circadian rhythm problem. Their biologic clock is altered due to a progressive delay in sleep-time associated with homework and the use of electronic devices until bedtime.” Dr. Sak explains that the light from screens is enough to confuse the brain because the brain sets its biologic clock by light which hits the retina causing an impulse to be sent to the brain. “If we confuse ourselves with bright light in the evening, then we delay the initiation of sleep,” he said.

Dr. Sak advises establishing an evening routine prior to bedtime that allows for relaxation, a clearing of the mind, avoidance of bright light, a shutting off of electronic devices, a regular bedtime and a regular wake-up time.

Optimal Zzzz’s

Another emphasis of treatment at the Sleep Wellness Center is establishing peace for the young patient. Mental and spiritual health depend on striving “to be at peace with the events of the day passed and those of the coming day.” Dr. Sak encourages families to help teens minimize the conflicts in their lives whether it is school work loads, social relationship issues, problems with a coach, or problems in the home. Beyond that, the staff at Sleep Wellness can provide helpful insight to create a bedroom most conducive to a night of positive sleep for a young person.

Sleep is a family affair

“We take sleep for granted,” says Dr. Sak. “It’s not just something you tack on at the end of the day when you have a chance. You prioritize it because the better rested you are the better you perform. Period. End of story.” Every individual needs between 7.5 hours to 9 hours of sleep each night, and those numbers are the same for all age groups, he adds. Parents need to model good sleep hygiene. “Sleep is a family affair and we have to take it seriously. We take nutrition seriously, we take exercise seriously, and we need to take sleep seriously.”

To seek an appointment or guidance as to sleep issues for yourself or your adolescent child, you may reach the Daniel J. and Maria H. Sak Sleep Wellness Center of the Blanchard Valley Hospital, by calling 419-427-2604 during office hours Monday-Thursday 8am-4pm and Friday, 8am-noon.

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