Understanding Sleep during Adolescence
Shirley A. Wiggins, Jackie L. Freeman
Adolescents have unique sleep behaviors related to physiological and developmental differences. Research suggests that sleep debt related to these adolescent differences contributes to risk for accidents, behavioral changes, and other health concerns. In addition, the impact of pain related to trauma, surgery, and chronic illness can further alter the sleep patterns of this age group. Limited normative parameters describe the sleep of healthy adolescents. A comparative study of 26 adolescents from 12 through 18 years of age was designed to describe the sleep patterns of two groups of adolescents. Sleep parameters, including actual sleep time, sleep efficiency, nighttime awakenings, and other sleep patterns of adolescents following post-operative tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T & A), were compared with an age and gender-matched sample of healthy adolescents. All adolescents wore wrist-actigraphy and documented sleep information in a diary for three continuous days. Healthy adolescents had significantly less (p = 0.003) actual hours of night time sleep and significantly less (p = 0.039) sleep efficiency than adolescents in the post-operative sample during the three days. None of the adolescents in this study had sufficient actual hours of nighttime sleep. Findings support the need for nurses to assess adolescent sleep patterns and to educate teens and their families about the importance of adequate sleep. Further research is needed to establish sleep interventions that will improve the sleep hygiene of both healthy adolescents and those who experience sleep disruption due to painful conditions.