8-10 hours of sleep per night is appropriate for adolescents.
Evidence: General Health: 9+ hours of sleep a night is associated with better health, <7 hours per night there is increased rate of injury.
- Cardiovascular Health: Shorter sleep duration; associated with hypertension
- Metabolic Health: <8 hours increased BMI, body fat, waist/hip circumference, <9 hours high inflammation
- Immunologic Health: 8-9 hours immune profile.
Mental Health: U-shape curve associated with sleep needs, 8-9 hours is optimal. (below graph derived from https://www.sleepresolutions.com/blog/is-oversleeping-harmful)
Performance: <8-9 hours performance declines.
Matricciani et al. (2012) study:
- Adolescents need as much sleep as they would get in middle childhood.
- Adolescents go to bed later because… of BIOLOGICAL reasons. Their body and mind are constantly changing and growing, so their internal clock is wired to stay up later not just because but for true physical and cognitive changes.
Sleep deprivation is associated with:
- High risk behaviors.
As we all know, adolescents LOVE all the sugar they can get into their bodies. Although this is good every once and a while, adolescents who regularly engage consuming fatty and sugary foods are leaving detrimental effects for their body later on. As their bodies are growing rapidly, they need an increase in nutrition not a decrease (even though they crave it).
Encouraging family meals together is important as it is strongly associated with greater intakes of fruits, vegetables, grains, and calcium-rich foods and reduced soft drink and fast-food consumption. This is a simple topic that could come up during small group or even conversation. Not all families make it a priority to sit down and eat together, however it promotes nutritional and relational value.
Boys need 2400-3200 calories/day
Girls need 1800-2400 calories/day
Another sensitive subject to discuss when bringing up health and nutrition is eating disorders. Two of the main types are:
- Anorexia nervosa: Young people starve themselves because of a compulsive fear of getting fat. This affects a smaller percentage of individuals than bulimia nervosa.
- Bulimia nervosa: Young people engage in strict dieting and excessive exercise accompanied with binge eating, often followed by deliberate vomiting. This affects 2-4% of teenage girls.
- Binge-eating disorder: Binging at least once a week for three months or longer, without compensatory behavior.
This is a subject that is touchy and can be scary as young women and young men are pressed to conform to a specific body type due to the culture and society we live in. If a student is struggling or knows someone else who is struggling with an eating disorder it’s crucial to report this as they are harming themselves and behaviors that connect to these disorders are suicidal thoughts or actions. Social media plays a huge role in self esteem and self acceptance as adolescents and young adults struggle to live up to a false reality they see on social media. Encouraging adolescents to take breaks from their accounts or in general not using social media is one way to start.
Negative moods are linked to a greater number of negative life events like..
- Difficulty with parents
- Disciplinary actions at school
- Breaking up with a significant other
***Stress reactivity is heightened by changes in brain neurotransmitter activity during adolescence
Mood swings are strongly related to situational circumstances. Best parts of an adolescents day is spent with friends and self-chosen leisure activities. The worst part of their day was more structured by adults which include class, jobs and religious structures. If we are able to incorporate leisure activities while students are at youth group, this could be one of the highest parts of their day or week when we give them freedom within the structure.
References: Many of the material used for this post is derived from the Developmental Psychology course with Dr. Jessica Fales at Washington State University.
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