The Physical, Social, and Psychological Influences on Adolescent Sleep Patterns and the Resulting Implications

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The Physical, Social, and Psychological Influences on Adolescent Sleep Patterns and the Resulting Implications

The Physical, Social, and Psychological Influences on Adolescent Sleep Patterns and the Resulting Implications

Extensive research has illustrated that biological changes associated with the onset of puberty in adolescents alters patterns of sleep. This biological change is associated with a shift in the circadian rhythm linked to sleep. Pubescent changes in the circadian rhythm are characterised by a decrease in the onset of melatonin at night which in turn causes a sleep-onset delay. This delay causes adolescents to be biologically “programmed” to sleep at later times of the night. Although sleep-onset delay occurs in adolescents; their need for sleep does not lesser, but rather increases. This causes day-time sleepiness. However, many adolescents do not gain their required sleep each night for a variety of reasons: social and family commitments; school and casual work obligations; psychological and/or physiological problems; and issues related to chronic-partial sleep deprivation. These issues have a greater impact as individuals’ progress through to later adolescence (students in year 12) due to increasing demands on students at this stage of their education. Solutions to these problems must be achieved to ensure optimal performance at an academic level: such as allowing older secondary school students to commence school at a later a time than students in year 7, who are burdened by fewer expectations and pressures. The sleep patterns of adolescents (considered by society to be aged 12 to 20 years) significantly vary from those of other age groups; resulting in many parents of adolescents being under the perception that their son or daughter merely becomes “lazy” upon the onset of puberty. This is not the case. The commencement of puberty causes biological changes that cause an impact on sleep patterns. These changes are associated with a shift or change in the circadian rhythm associated with sleep. The circadian rhythm is the biological clock process (of an approximately 24 hour cycle) that controls sleep-wake patterns in humans by managing the secretion of melatonin: melatonin is a hormone that is secreted during darkness or a low level of light (Burton, Westen, and Kowalksi 2009). During puberty, there is a delay in the secretion of melatonin which causes sleep-onset delay; characterised by the need for sleep occurring at a later time at night. For example: a young child will feel sleepy at 8pm and fall asleep shortly after; whereas, an adolescent may not feel sleepy until midnight or later. Due to the fact that a sleep-onset delay occurs in adolescents, day-time sleepiness, of varying degrees, results: eliciting many psychological and physiological problems. The circadian preference is an important factor to consider when discussing the problems associated with adolescent sleep patterns. The circadian preference refers to an inclination to be generally more alert in the morning or evening. Adolescents are typically ‘evening-types,’ which emphasises their tendency to fall asleep at later intervals at night. Research has revealed that due to this tendency, adolescents report high instances of psychological issues, excessive day-time sleepiness, difficulty in falling asleep, trouble awaking in the morning, problems with attention, and disturbances to academic performance. However, a minority group of adolescents are ‘morning-types’. Morning-types experience day-time sleepiness to a lesser a degree; report fewer psychological problems; and generally perform better academically (Giannotti, Cortesi, Sebastiani, and Ottaviano 2002). Not only do adolescents experience significant changes of a biological nature, their sleep schedule throughout the week, can only be described as irregular for a variety of reasons. Life style factors, psychological issues, social and other...
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