Exploring the health benefits of sleep for adolescents


Maddie Hooper '24

Adequate sleep is an important element of daily self-care.

Sleep promotes physical health and emotional development in adolescents.  Dr. Lisa Schwartz, School Psychologist, and Mrs. Heather Elken, Head Nurse, discussed the importance of self-care in student lives.  Because the coronavirus pandemic has made self-wellness challenging for adolescents, Dr. Schwartz and Mrs. Elken provided advice on how to implement daily self-care exercises into busy schedules.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, children and adolescents rely on electronics more heavily.  As a result, teenagers experience anxiety and develop irregular sleep patterns, according to verywellfamily.com.  Sleep is critical to the mental and physical health of everyone, but especially adolescents, because they are still growing and developing, according to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.  However, adolescents tend to sleep six and a half hours instead of the eight hours doctors recommend.  A lack of sleep leads to concentration difficulties, moodiness, memory impairment, and reduced academic performance, according to betterhealth.vic.gov.au

A lack of sleep in adolescents heightens negative emotions.  Courtesy of statista.com.

Dr. Schwartz and Mrs. Elken recognize that students struggle to sleep eight hours a night.  Mrs. Elken commented that the mental aspect of under-sleeping is the most critical.  She explained that it is harder to communicate effectively with others when a person is tired.  Dr. Schwartz also noted that self-care starts with adequate sleep. 

“Sleep is great for stress management because it gives our brains an opportunity to rest and helps our brains process information,” Dr. Schwartz said.  “Sleep gives us the energy and the opportunity to live our best lives.”

Mrs. Elken also described how sleep promotes students’ physical wellbeing.  She explained that too little sleep incites metabolic changes and negatively affects how bodies process nutrients.  For women in particular, sleep also helps regulate hormones and thyroid function. 

Lack of sleep affects female hormones greatly which in turn affects your hair, your nails, your skin, and your body composition,” Mrs. Elken said.  “It can alter your thyroid which can make a difference in how you metabolize food. “

Dr. Schwartz and Mrs. Elken discussed ways to approach personal wellness.  Dr. Schwartz explained that a good routine is crucial to taking care of both physical and mental health.  Mrs. Elken stressed the importance of not over-scheduling, especially if a student is also an athlete.  Likewise, Dr. Schwartz advised students to incorporate activities they enjoy into their days.

Sleep has many benefits for both physical and mental health.  Courtesy of mytjnow.com

It is important to have something that you like to do,” Dr. Schwartz said.  “I like to say it has to be something you like because you will be more likely to do it.  I think we are all doing the best we can and that sometimes it is okay to not be perfect.” 

Dr. Schwartz and Mrs. Elken both stated that students should not feel alone while they strive to take care of themselves.  They are eager to help all students who are struggling.  The Behind Every Smile Club also works to raise awareness about the benefits of self wellness.  

“A huge part of the self care routine is coming to us at school,” Dr. Schwartz said.  “I am always here to help and not to judge and to be there for all of you.”

Mrs. Elken also provides students with a welcoming environment in the nurses’ office.  She lets students use her office to take naps during frees or breaks to refuel their bodies.

“We are all here to help the students,” Mrs. Elken said.  “Sometimes all you need is a nap.”

Featured Image by Maddie Hooper ’24