Puberty, Adolescents and Sleep

Puberty is a complex physiological, cognitive and psycho-social cascade of changes. Sleep disturbances can arise during this essential time, which may adversely affect growth, health and development. Most of you who have adolescents at home are well aware of these complex changes; well so am I. My great sleeper, who used to fall asleep the minute his head would hit the pillow around 9, now walks the hallways till 11 or midnight at times, unable to fall asleep. I have decided to look deeper into this common phenomenon that affects so many teens to see what suggestions I can find in literature.

To start off, we need to dive into basic physiology of sleep.  Sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake teens-sleep-patternhomeostasis and the circadian rhythm. The sleep/wake homeostasis lets our body know when it needs to rest. The circadian rhythm, regulate the time period of sleepiness and wakefulness. Changes in the circadian rhythm occur during adolescence as part of physiological process. This natural shift is called sleep phase delay. Teen who used to go sleep around 8-9 pm at night before puberty, now won’t be able to fall asleep till 10 or 11 pm. Since most adolescents have early school start, this sleep phase delay can make it difficult for the teenagers to get recommended 9 hours of sleep. For adolescents the strongest circadian “dips” tend to occur between 3-7 am and 2-5 pm.

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