Identifying whether a teen is suffering from a true sleep disorder can be challenging given that so many teens are seriously sleep deprived as a result of their schedules and greater sleep needs. Teens need around nine hours of sleep a night, but most only get around six and half hours. Making matters worse is that teens' natural sleep rhythms mean that they don't get sleepy until late at night. Given the early starting times of so many schools, teens often try to go to bed well before they're naturally sleepy.
Many of the general symptoms of sleep disorders, sleep deprivation and normal teen behavior can be quite similar, so the process of diagnosing a true sleep disorder becomes even more difficult. As a result, you'll want to have a doctor or sleep specialist help clarify whether your teen is truly suffering from a sleep disorder or simply needs more sleep.
Some of the symptoms of a sleep disorder or deprivation are mood swings, weakened immune system, problems concentrating, declining grades, increased stress, and depression. If your teen is exhibiting any of the sleep issues listed below, you should consult a professional for assistance.
- Sleepwalking, if it happens at all, is often outgrown by adolescence. So if your teen is still sleepwalking, which includes even just sitting up in bed with eyes open, this is an issue.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by snoring, breathing through the mouth, or difficulty breathing.
- Night terrors are exhibited by sudden, emotional outbursts during sleep. They are quite rare for teens.
- Sleep-onset anxiety is when your teen has difficulty falling asleep due to excessive stress or agitation.
- Narcolepsy is a genetic condition that causes one to fall asleep spontaneously. Do not confuse this with simple sleepiness or drowsiness due to sleep deprivation.
- Delayed sleep-phase syndrome means your teen doesn't naturally fall asleep until quite late. Teens' natural sleep-phase leads them to get sleepy around 11 pm or 12 am. However, if your teen isn't getting sleepy until early morning (e.g. 2 am or 3 am), he/she may have this sleep disorder.