When It’s Not Insomnia – What you need to know about sleep patterns in teens that impacts performance

Does this pattern sound familiar for your teenager?

  • Frequently experiencing daytime sleepiness, mood swings, and irritability.
  • Tired all day but feels awake at night, sleeping later than they should.
  • Catches up on sleep during the weekend but strangely feels worse on Mondays, and then the cycle repeats.

This sleep-wake cycle for teenagers is so common that most parents and coaches accept it as a normal pattern. While it may be common, it is far from optimal and has negative consequences on mood and performance over time.

It doesn’t have to be the norm and it can be improved quickly with the right intervention.

Most parents don’t know that their teen is not experiencing insomnia.  It is a delayed sleep phase problem commonly experienced in adolescence, as well as in adulthood.

What contributes to this common problem?

1. The body clock
A teenager’s body clock is naturally wired to sleep and wake later. This means you don’t build up enough sleep pressure during the day to produce sleepiness by the socially acceptable bedtime of 10pm, nor can the body naturally rise at the expected hour to reach school on time, or earlier for training if you are an athlete. But the body clock is malleable and can be re-trained and re-set to adjust with the guidance of a trained professional.

2. Stress + active brain = Excessive worry at night
Teens typically report feeling most alert around 9pm or 10pm at night. With the pressures of school at its peak and an active brain at bedtime, it is common to experience heightened worry at night that can further delay sleep.

3. Tech-time
The use of electronic devices for teenagers peaks at night. In addition to this issue, research on the use of technology at bedtime has consistently shown delayed sleep effects due to blue light stimulation generated from our smart phones, tablets, and laptops.

With an effective routine in place that allows for homework practices and downtime – Technology can be utilised at night but in the right way that supports a healthy sleep cycle.

4. Weekend catch-up
A common practice is to use the weekend to “sleep-in” and catch up on lost sleep. Unfortunately, for teens, this habit only worsens the problem, further pushing the body clock sleep-wake cycle even later.

What can be done without medication?
There is a scientific approach to adjusting your natural body rhythm over 1-2 weeks without medication or supplements that can have excellent effects on your sleep wake patterns to match the times you ‘have’ to adhere to in your schedule.

Athletes require their bodies to perform at their best naturally and we know that medication for many is just not an option for high performers. Dr Jay-Lee is trained in a highly effective, scientific approach that can re-set your body clock naturally without medication. Combine this with mental skills training for stress and time management and you have a winning recipe for high performance.

Dr Jay-Lee Nair PhD | Psychologist MAPS
Book an appointment with Dr Jay-Lee at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre to find out how you can optimise your sleep habits for peak performance.