Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Getting a good night’s sleep is really important for our daily functioning. But as with other aspects of our life, sleep is vulnerable to stress and it can be hard to sleep when we are feeling stressed. Now, there are two processes involved in helping us sleep. The first one is called our circadian rhythm. And our circadian rhythm is essentially our body clock. So our body knows what time we should be going to bed and what time we should be waking up in the morning. The other process is what we call sleep homeostasis. Now, this is the pressure that builds up throughout the day to help make us feel tired in the evening and ready for bed.
Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds During our teenage years, these processes alter slightly. And what happens is teenagers tend to not feel tired until later in the evening than they would’ve done in their earlier teenage years or childhood years. Now, the result in this is that teenagers might go to bed and find it hard to fall asleep when they would like to be going to bed. And they can lie there awake for a while. And this is the case for many teenagers across the world. Now, when we’re feeling stressed or worried, falling asleep can be even harder. And what happens is when we’re feeling stressed, we often have thoughts racing through our mind. We might be overthinking things. Our routines might be out of sync.
Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds So we might be doing things a bit differently and our body might feel a bit confused. So when we go to bed and we’re lying there thinking about all these things have been going on, it can interfere with us falling asleep. Now, what often happens then is, the next day, we might feel groggy or agitated or we might find it hard to concentrate. And this could start to turn into a bit more vicious cycle. So the next night, we might really want to go to bed. We might go to bed a bit earlier, trying to catch up on our sleep. But again, we might lie there awake, not able to fall asleep and worrying again.
Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds And as this cycle continues, it can get harder and harder to fall asleep, the more desperate we become to try to fall asleep. So in these times where things are quite stressful or perhaps more stressful than normal, it’s going to be really important to take good care of our sleep to try and prevent these cycles from happening. And preventing these cycles will really help to support our mood and our well-being during these times.
Good sleeping habits
Watch Dr Faith Orchard explain some of the processes involved in sleep, and how these can be affected when we’re feeling low.
Sleep is hugely important for both our physical and mental health, and teenagers in particular are vulnerable to sleeping difficulties, due to changes in their biology. During these times of social distancing and social isolation, you may have found your sleep habits have changed or become even more challenging.
It’s important to establish a good routine and habits around sleeping and bedtime. As much as possible, go to sleep, wake up and get out of bed at the same times each day. It’s tempting to sleep in for much longer or stay up much later when we don’t need to go to school or be at other places. However, this will play havoc with your biological clock and can eventually make it much more difficult to get good sleep.
Another tip is to make sure your bedroom is associated with sleeping and not with being awake and active.
This might be difficult at the moment if you’re restricted to being at home, where you might be living closely with a number of family members. If you’re able to spend time in other parts of the house, try and treat your bedroom as an important sleep environment. If this isn’t possible, set up a comfy beanbag or blanket in your bedroom to help you avoid doing all of your activities in bed. We’ve highlighted a range of other helpful techniques that can improve sleep below.
This article draws on material from our Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People course, where we explore adolescent sleep and sleep intervention in more detail. The course starts on 1 June.
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