What’s Enough? Why It’s Essential for Nurses to Assess Adolescent Sleep

June 7, 2013

By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor

Illustration © Anne Horst / http://www.i2iart.com

In her poem “Sleep in the Mohave Desert,” Sylvia Plath wrote about not sleeping, feeling comfortless, tormented by the “heat-cracked crickets . . . [that] fiddle the short night away” in “the blue hour before sunup.” Though Plath was writing as an adult, sleeplessness and other sleep difficulties have troubled humans of all ages for centuries. Until recently, we could only guess at the health consequences. Now there is mounting evidence that inadequate or insufficient sleep has many adverse effects. Adolescents appear to be particularly vulnerable—and it’s not simply because they’re rebelling against bedtime. In this month’s CE, “Assessing Sleep in Adolescents Through a Better Understanding of Sleep Physiology,” authors Nancy George and Jean Davis offer an in-depth look.

Overview: Adolescents need about nine hours of sleep per night, yet most teens get far less. Inadequate sleep has consequences not only for academic performance but also for mental and physical health; it has been linked to lowered resilience and an increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. It’s imperative that assessment of sleep become a routine part of adolescent health care. An understanding of sleep physiology is essential to helping nurses better assess and manage sleep deprivation in this population. Sleep assessment involves evaluating the three main aspects of sleep: amount, quality, and architecture. The authors provide an overview of sleep physiology, describe sleep changes that occur during adolescence, and discuss the influence of these changes on adolescent health. They also provide simple questions that nurses can use to assess sleep and risk factors for disrupted sleep, and discuss patient education and other interventions.

The authors close with detailed suggestions for nurse–patient education, which include teaching adolescents how to

  • unwind from the day’s activities.
  • establish bedtime rituals.
  • create an environment conducive to sleep.
  • avoid activities that might impede sleep.

To learn more, read the article, which is free online. And please share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments.

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One comment

  1. So I just read an article about adolescents who spend an enormous amount of time using social media and the psychological ramifications of this behavior. For certain, some children are up late into the night entertaining themselves online. Dr. Larry Rosen shares his findings about this topic with the APA. Quite interesting


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