The challenge of adjusting our routines and adapting to new sleep schedules because of Daylight Savings, may be particularly difficult for teenagers. After all, at times it seems as if all they want to do is get some shut-eye (well, maybe not all they want to do!). Sleep experts, however, recognize that some of this love for sleep is based on a biological phenomenon known as "delayed sleep phase syndrome," where the body's natural daily rhythms are disrupted and the internal biological clock actually extends beyond the regular 24 hour cycle. Because of this delay, people tend to want to go to sleep and wake up at a later hour.

The problem can have varying degrees of severity and is more common than most people realize, especially in children who, in the throes of puberty, are experiencing biological changes that also affect their sleeping patterns. While there are no definite numbers, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that as many as 16% of adolescents are affected, and that as many as 10% of the people who visit sleep clinics suffer from it.

Unfortunately, sleep problems can lead to many adverse consequences, especially in growing kids. Sleep is important, and when a person begins to stay up later and later, he or she may not be able to get enough sleep because practical, everyday demands like school or work require that they wake up early. These sleep deficits can lead to hyperactivity and may end up compromising their performance, not to mention their moods, in numerous areas, including work, social interactions, and academic performance. The problem can become especially acute with the onset of Daylight Savings Time.

Fortunately, there are solutions, and most of them involve the modification of aberrant sleep patterns through lifestyle changes and exposure to light:

  • Practice healthy sleep habits — kids should go to sleep at a regular time each night.
  • Avoid excessive stimulation — stimulating activities like music or video games can interfere with a child’s sleeping process.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleep environment — a kid's room, or wherever they sleep, should be as comfortable and familiar as possible.
  • Ban caffeine — including chocolate and soft drinks.

If these tactics are not effective, there are more involved means of intervention such as artificial light therapy and medication. Artificial light therapy involves daily exposure to a light box that enables a person to reset their internal clock and correct their biological rhythm, i.e., circadian rhythm. In certain instances, medication can be employed, but should only be used under the strict guidance of your doctor.

If you have concerns about your teenager’s sleep pattern, speak with your pediatrician. To learn more about delayed sleep phase syndrome, visit the website for the American Sleep Association. For more information about the importance of sleep (something every parent knows all about), visit the homepage of the National Sleep Foundation. If you're interested in some tips for better sleep, check out this article from Healthy Theory.