Raising Teen Girls
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Insights into the mental health and well-being of teen girls...

5 sleeping patterns of teen girls that could be a problem

Sleep is food for her brain

Sleep might be one of the most important mental health treatments out there.  It's severely under-rated but vital to the emotional health of teen girls.  Its not uncommon for your teen daughter to be sleeping much more then she did as a child.  This is normal. But what if you start to notice that she is not sleeping enough, making her very irritable or that she is over-sleeping, missing out on activities that she used to love?

If she is not getting the right amount of sleep and/or is lacking quality sleep you are definitely going to see a very negative affect on her emotions.  Every girl is different in what they need but it's important to figure out what she needs.  This will vary from person to person.

What I tend to see with girls who are struggling with more severe mental health problems including mental illness is a consistent pattern of disrupted, poor sleep.  She may be over-sleeping or severely under-sleeping.

Her sleeping patterns and habits will tell you a lot.  It's an excellent way to notice if something is up and should be cause for concern.  Here are five common patterns to be looking out for.  Every once in awhile is not cause for alarm but a frequent pattern is something to be concerned about...

Stay up all night, sleep all day - I have seen this pattern begin to manifest in girls that are struggling with higher levels of depression and anxiety.  They tend to resist going to school frequently because they are so tired.  Technology also plays a significant role.  There is a tendency to be more easily distracted and stimulated by technology and they will find themselves up all night talking to people or watching Netflix.  Once this habit gets established it is very difficult to break.

Stay up late, sleep in school - This pattern is more prevalent with perfectionist beliefs about grades.  Girls will stay up very late doing school work and end up sleeping in class.  They come home and take long naps, stay up late and repeat the cycle again.  High levels of generalized anxiety can also cause her to stay up later because her mind is more active at night.

Very little sleep, lots of energy - this is a pattern more common with a manic cycle.  She may only get 0-3 hours of sleep and not appear to be tired.  This pattern can go for several days or even a few weeks.  It typically results in an emotional and physical crash and in more severe circumstances can lead to psychosis due to the lack of sleep.

Excessive sleeping - this habit can be developed when a girl is using sleep to cope with her emotions.  She can choose to sleep to "drown out" the noise of life.  It is more common in depression.  Excessive sleeping is also associated with other medical conditions such as vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems. If she has been prescribed medication and is sleeping excessively it can indicate that she is over-medicated or having a negative reaction to the medication.

Unable to sleep without a sibling or parent in the room - this is a common pattern if she is struggling with separation anxiety.  This negative habit has an underlying fear that needs to be addressed.

Regardless of the pattern, poor sleep will result in difficult emotions for her and you.  She will be more sensitive to her emotions and often take out the emotion on those around her.  If you are noticing a lot more crankiness then normal, be sure to assess her sleeping patterns.  Sometimes all it takes is to get her sleeping patterns back to a regular, consistent state for you to see some improvement in her emotional stability.

For more information this article from Harvard Medical School does a concise job in explaining the connection between mental health and sleep...

In my next post we will discuss good sleep hygiene for teen girls.  Feel free to share about any sleep situations you have dealt with your daughter.