If you are often so tired and listless during the day that everyday activities are difficult for you, you are not getting enough sleep. It is estimated that about one in three people have sleep problems. The good thing is: You can do something about it yourself. Here you can find out what the possibilities are.
Most teenagers get by on about eight hours of sleep. However, this is only an average. How much sleep you personally need may differ slightly from this. By the way, sleep here means the entire sleeping time. It starts the moment you first fall asleep and ends when you are properly awake and get up again. Waking periods at night are deducted from sleep time. But you don’t have to get eight hours of deep sleep every night.
If you often find it difficult to get up in the morning, this is not normal. This does not mean that sometimes you are still tired and would like to roll over again. But: if you often feel exhausted and can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Young people often go to bed late at night during the week and then sleep very late on weekends. However, such an irregular rhythm can lead to sleep problems.
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If you have been sleeping poorly for a long time, you might have a sleep disorder. This is when someone has been sleeping poorly more than three nights a week for at least a month and feels very floppy and tired during the day.
Sleep problems can have a variety of causes:
- too much alcohol : alcohol is one of the most common causes of sleep disorders. Many people fall asleep more quickly after drinking alcohol, but their sleep is much less restful. So if you drink less alcohol, you sleep better and are fitter the next day.
- Sleepwalking, nightmares, worries and fears
- School stress and pressure to perform
- Snoring and breathing problems : If you snore, you may keep waking up at night.
- Teeth grinding: It could also be that you grind your teeth at night and don’t sleep as well because of it. This is called bruxism.
Persistent sleep disturbances can also be an indication of a disease. If you and your parents are unsure where your sleep problems are coming from, you can talk to a health care provider. Together you can find out why you are not sleeping well.
Your sleep problems probably do not have a medical cause. What you can do about your sleep problems then, you’ll find out in the next sections.
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A lot of things you might still do in the evening can upset you and prevent you from falling asleep anytime soon. If you want to do something about your sleep problems, you can try to avoid these things in the evening. For example, it might help
- listening only to soft music and not talking on the phone or playing on the computer or cell phone for a while before going to bed,
- drink beverages such as water, juice spritzer, herbal or fruit tea in the evening, rather than stimulants such as cola, energy drinks, coffee, or black or green tea,
- not to smoke before going to bed, because the nicotine in cigarettes can have a stimulating effect,
- Do strenuous exercise in the early evening rather than just before going to bed.
It can also help not to worry too much if it takes longer to fall asleep or if you wake up during the night. These worries can also prevent you from sleeping. Maybe you will sleep better if you
- making sure your room is quiet and dark,
- go to bed regularly at the same time,
- get up once again when you can’t fall asleep,
- Use the bed only for sleeping, not for reading, watching TV, or eating; and
- always get up at the same time in the morning, preferably right after the alarm clock rings.
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Parents and children often have different opinions when it comes to when it’s time to go to bed. On the one hand, it is important that you have a regular sleep schedule and get enough sleep. Because if you go to bed late and have to be at school by eight o’clock, you’ll still be tired in the morning and have trouble concentrating.
On the other hand, not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. You’ll know if you’ve slept long enough to feel refreshed and rested in the morning. If you feel that you are getting by on less sleep than your parents think, you should talk to them about it.
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If your sleep problems are bothering you and you are often tired and listless, you can try different methods and treatments that might help you.
Change thought patterns
"If I don’t fall asleep now, I’ll nod off again tomorrow in class." Maybe you think that sometimes too. But exactly such thoughts can keep you from falling asleep. In cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the things you can learn is to recognize such thoughts and replace them with more realistic ones, for example, "It’s normal to wake up at night from time to time. Maybe I will fall asleep again. And if not, that’s okay too."
Even if you don’t do such therapy, you can try to get rid of thoughts that can keep you from sleeping.
Two common relaxation techniques that are also used for sleep problems are autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation. You can learn them in a course and also teach yourself some of them, for example, with the help of an app or online tutorials. They take some practice, but might help you fall asleep a bit faster if you use them before bedtime.
In progressive muscle relaxation, you lie down and focus on a specific muscle group. First you relax the muscles, then you tense them for a while and relax them completely again. Then do the same exercise with more muscle groups until you have loosened up your entire body.
Autogenic training is a form of self-hypnosis. While doing this, sit or lie down comfortably so that you can completely relax your muscles. Afterwards you say certain thoughts to yourself in the spirit again and again, for example "My arms are heavy". This allows you to intensely feel different states such as heaviness, warmth, coolness, or calmness.
If you get almost no sleep at all, your doctor may prescribe a sleeping pill for a short period of time. However, sleeping pills can have many side effects and make you tired during the day as well. In addition, many medications that make sleeping easier become addictive after a short time . Therefore, they can only be a temporary solution.
Sleeping pills from others – for example from your parents – you should not take in any case. Because only a doctor can judge which medication is right for you and how it should be dosed.
Bruni O, Novelli L. Sleep disorders in children . BMJ Clin Evid 2010: 2304.
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