Your once perky, live-wire child may seem to have turned into an exhausted, teenager even though they seem to have the right diet and lifestyle. Monica, whose own three somehow survived her parenting, looks at some of the common underlying causes of why young people find it so hard to stay awake.
Tiredness and low motivation in the teenage years can be caused by a variety of things. The most common reason is not getting enough sleep at night. The National Sleep Foundation reckons 80% of teenagers are not getting the recommended 8.5 hours of sleep a night! I remember my two boys went through a stage of finding it really hard to get up in the mornings. However, in most cases this is not a problem. It is now recognised as normal for previously alert and active teenagers to go through a sleepy phase especially mid to late afternoon. The sleepiness is attributed to the extreme physical growth that they have been going through, especially boys, plus the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin later in the evening which makes them stay up later.
One of the most documented causes of sleepiness nowadays is sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality caused by electronics. TV and video games in the bedrooms carrying on until late. One big culprit, often unknown to parents, are mobile phones under the covers with incessant Facebook/Messenger chats going on into the wee hours. It's hard to control as we all know how addictive social media is but it's exhausting being switched on all the time especially late at night. Electronic devices stimulate the brain in such a way that activity needs to be be ceased a good whole hour before sleeping, for proper sleep to physically happen. Create a cosy sleep sanctuary and ban electronic devices from the bedroom, including your own!
Caffeine and Sugar
Even if your son or daughter doesn't drink tea or coffee, lots of fizzy drinks contain caffeine which is a sleep disruptor and shouldn't be drunk in the evening. Caffeine is especially high in energy drinks and guarana drinks but also found in colas. This must be declared on the label. They are also really high in sugar! Sugar is exhausting, causing huge swings in the body ranging from sudden bursts of sugar induced energy highs, quickly followed by crashing lows. The body especially needs slow burning low glycaemic index carbs, so suggest porridge for breakfast. If your child's diet is high in sugary snacks and unsubstantial food their body will not have the right nutrition to grow and will quickly become depleted and exhausted.
Nearly always, even when people tell me they have a good diet they are often lacking in iodine. Although there are tiny amounts in eggs and non-organic milk, only a diet rich in fish and seaweed consistently provides the body with enough iodine. This is important as iodine is needed by the thyroid gland to control the speed of metabolism - without iodine it slows down and fatigue and lack of energy kick in. As 76% of teenage girls at age 14 tested iodine deficient in a recent clinical study, this is not just something that middle-aged people should be concerned about. We did a study with University of Glasgow 2 years ago and over half of the healthy 25 year old students had low levels of iodine and correspondingly low levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). For that we recommend taking 1 capsule of our Organic Hebridean Kelp per day as it restores low TSH to normal levels. I've also written an article More on Tired all the Time from a talk I gave on the link between iodine 'malnutrition' in the early years and the development of underactive thyroid after pregnancy or later in life.
Stress is Tiring
Stress. Teenagers often feel very stressed. Social pressures, exams looming, career choices, fulfilling expectations... even the most well-balanced teen will often say they feel very stressed, although boys do not articulate this in the same way as girls. This has to be addressed through support from family, friends and teachers. However - assuming that your youngster does not have depression and has good support - it sometimes helps to take some herbs as a food supplement. The best are adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, ashwaghanda, astragalus, liquorice which support the adrenal glands - the first to need support in times of stress but do avoid herbs like, for example, cola nut which contain caffeine and don't give them too much. Talk to your local medical herbalist or contact us to discuss this further.
For exam stress and late nights studying, our Napiers Study Essential Oil Blend can help focus.
Assuming that there is no underlying medical problem, this stage your teenager is going through will pass. Try not to fuss too much and strike the right balance between being supportive but still providing the right framework to make proper night-time rest and sleep a priority.
And always remember, that your teenager of today, unmoving in their cocoon or pupa, will one day suddenly emerge as a magnificent butterfly!