8 Natural Remedies for Teen Depression

Teens go through a lot of changes and have a lot of pressures put on them from different groups. It is not uncommon to have low periods or feelings of depression during this time. According to Mental Health America, if you are experiencing a loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy, irritability, tiredness, and prolonged sadness you can’t break out of, you may be experiencing depression. Fortunately, there are small, natural changes you can make in your daily habits that can make a big difference and help alleviate the symptoms.

Mother comforts her troubled teenage daughter

Take Care of Your Body

1. Exercising is a great positive activity to keep your mind and body occupied. It also releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals, into your brain and will affect you immediately. In addition, exercising boosts self confidence, especially if your depression is related to body issues.

2. Making sure you are eating right and getting the right nutrients into your body is also essential to feeling well emotionally. Eating well will help you feel better both physically and emotionally.

3. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night for teens and adolescents. A chronic lack of sleep can make it difficult to get through each day, difficult to concentrate, and difficult to stay motivated.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

4. Make sure you are getting enough sunlight. Some people are more sensitive to light than others and get seasonal affective disorder, which means a lack of sunlight makes them depressed. This is most common in the winter months when daylight is scarce. It is especially important to get sunlight in the morning, because bright light in the morning helps keep your circadian rhythms in line with daylight hours. If it is too difficult to get true sunlight with your busy schedule, try using a “happy lamp” when you are home in the evenings, which is a light that mimics the effects of sunlight on the brain.

 

Take supplements

5. Getting the right nutrition is essential to maintaining mental and emotional health. Taking a multivitamin ensures your body is getting the nutrients it needs to function healthily. B vitamins are specifically linked to alleviating depression symptoms, especially folic acid and vitamin B6. A vitamin D deficiency could be part of the problem. Related to seasonal affective disorder, not getting enough sunlight could result in a lack of vitamin d and depression. Taking a D vitamin daily could remedy this problem.

 

Find Healthy Outlets

6. Talk to a trusted adult friend. Feeling heard and understood is a human necessity. Talking an adult you trust and know will understand will help you feel less isolated and alone. Your friend may also have some good advice about what you are going through, or have been through something similar themselves.

7. Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings will help you make sense of what you are going through and can also be a great outlet to work through the thoughts and emotions you are not comfortable sharing with others. Through your writing, you may also start to notice patterns and realize what you are doing differently on days you feel better versus what you are doing on days you tend to feel down.

8. Try taking a break from social media. Social media can cause a negative cycle of depression. People, especially teens, need authentic human contact and companionship. Social media not only provides a pseudo social environment that does not meet these needs, but it can cause teens to compare their social lives to the lives their peers present that may or may not be accurate.

 

The important thing to remember if you are having symptoms of depression is that you are not alone, and there are resources available to help you. If you are experiencing serious depression that inhibits your daily living, it is important to get help from a counselor who specializes in working with teens. Everyone needs help sometimes, and working with a counselor could be the jump start you need to get back on the right track.

 

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Does Lack of Sleep Affect Mental Health?

tired teens

Do you know the impact that sleep deprivation can have on your teen? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Every parent with teenage children worries that they aren’t getting a good night’s sleep most nights, but staying up late and not getting enough sleep are generally considered to just be one of those “things teenagers do.”  When you add to that the fact that research has shown that teenagers are biologically hardwired to stay up late, many parents simply give in and stop trying to get their teens to spent more time sleeping and less time texting, skyping, and gaming.

But new research may encourage parents to take a stronger stance when it comes to getting their teens to be more serious about sleep.  This research was authored by a professor from the University of Bologna in Italy and utilized data gathered during interviews with more than 12,000 teens from 11 different countries in Europe.  In the interviews, participants were asked about their sleep habits, how much sleep they got on average each night, and inquired about their emotional state.

The analysis of all this data indicates that there may be some connection between the amount of sleep a teenager gets and their mental health.  While no cause and effect relationship can be determined because of the study’s design and the need for additional information, the results seem to indicate that getting less sleep may increase the chances of a teenager experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems.

The research indicated that teenagers who admitted they had experienced suicidal thoughts were very likely to be getting around 36 minutes less sleep each night than those who did not have suicidal thoughts.  Additionally, teens that had been diagnosed with severe emotional problems slept about 30 minutes less than their peers on average each night.

These initial findings may help direct future research initiatives geared towards more clearly defining the relationship between sleep and emotional distress in teenagers.  It will be important to gain a clearer picture of whether or not sleeping less is a sign of emotional problems or if not getting enough sleep contributes to the development of those problems.

However, based on other recent findings in sleep science, the best approach for parents is to encourage their teenagers to make sleep a priority and to develop healthy sleep habits.  While it may not be clear yet if lack of sleep can contribute to depression, we already know that it can play a role in major health problems like obesity and diabetes.  Parents can support their teens by encouraging them to follow these sleep hygiene guidelines.

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Don’t do anything except sleep while in bed.
  • Leave electronics including laptops and cell phones in the other room when it is time to go to bed.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that helps signal your body that it is time to go to sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep and devoid of excess light and noise.
  • Keep your room at a cool yet comfortable temperature to help encourage your body to fall asleep.

 

How to Help Your Teen Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping

Do you know if your teen is getting the sleep they need? (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

Although most teenagers would likely disagree, it simply isn’t true that teenagers need less sleep than their parents.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens need at least 9 hours of sleep every night which is slightly more than their parents need.  Unfortunately, today’s teens often struggle to get the sleep they need.  It may seem that it is computers, cell phones, and video games that are keeping our teens up, but their own biology may also be working against them.

Why Teens Struggle with Sleep

Research indicates that the circadian rhythm of teenagers makes it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 or 12 at night.  With early morning school start times, it can be almost impossible for teens to get the sleep they need at night.  Add in all those electronic gadgets and the normal stress and pressure of being a teen and it is easy to understand why teens have trouble getting the sleep they need.

How Lack of Sleep May be Hurting Your Teen

The consequences of sleep deprivation are wide ranging and significant, especially during the teen years.  A study by the National Sleep Foundation showed that 85% of teens routinely get less than 8.5 hours of sleep on school nights.  Even losing 30 minutes of sleep a night can result in sleep deprivation and over just a few days, the sleep debt incurred can impede everything from driving to learning.  Teenagers that aren’t getting the sleep they need may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble with cognitive tasks and memory
  • Difficulty concentrating, listening, and problem solving
  • Problems with behavior including anger, impatience, and  inappropriate outbursts
  • Increases in  overeating
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Drowsy driving accidents
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Increased likelihood of risky behavior

What Parents Can Do to Help

First and foremost, set a good example.  If you aren’t getting the sleep you need at night, you aren’t showing your teen that sleep is a priority. Help everyone in your household get a good night’s sleep by creating an atmosphere that supports healthy sleep habits and good sleep hygiene.

  • Prioritize – Make sleep as important to your family’s overall health as a balanced diet and an active lifestyle
  • Be Consistent – Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day helps ensure you get the sleep you need and makes it easier to fall asleep at night
  • Create a Supportive Sleep Environment – Check everyone’s sleep environment for a comfortable sleep surface and temperature.  Make sure sleep environments are free of excess light, noise, and other distractions.
  • Eliminate Electronics – Leave laptops, cell phones, game systems, and all other gadgets in some other room.

Helping your teenager get enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard their health.  Sleep is as important to your child’s physical and mental well-being as clean air, good food, and a happy home.

How Sleep May Be Impacting Your Teen

When we are overtired, everything in our life suffers.  We are moody and irritable which affects our personal relationships.  Our ability to concentrate and focus is compromised, making it difficult to learn, retain, and recall information.  We lack energy which makes exercise and physical activity difficult.  We drive when we are drowsy which endangers our lives and the lives of everyone else on the road.  For teens and adolescents, sleep deprivation can cause these problems and more at one of the most crucial developmental periods of their lives.

Why Sleep Matters

Sleep is as important to our health as breathing clean air and eating healthy food.  According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), there is a relationship between how much sleep you get, the quality of the sleep you get, and your overall health.  If you don’t get enough sleep, it can impact your hormone levels, impact the way your body handles insulin, and increase your risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and becoming obese.  In addition to the health risks, sleep deprivation is also the primary cause of drowsy driving and has a detrimental effect on grades and scholastic achievement.

The Facts about Teens and Sleep

If your teen is staying up late and struggling to drag themselves out of bed in the morning, it isn’t because they are being lazy or disobedient; and simply telling them that they need to go to bed earlier isn’t likely to fix this issue. Our biological sleep patterns shift when we are teens making it difficult to fall asleep before about 11:00PM.  Because teens need as much as nine hours sleep each night, this biological shift makes it difficult for teens to get the sleep they need and still get up for school on time.

Teens are not getting the sleep they need.  One study cited by the National Sleep Foundation showed that 85% of teenagers are getting less than 8.5 hours of sleep on most school nights despite the fact that many teens actually need more than nine hours of sleep every night.  Another study  showed that 26% of high school students are sleeping less than 6.5 hours a night which is causing a serious sleep debt to accrue.

The Dangers for Teens

The list of problems that sleep deprivation contributes to is long and varied.  While most of these problems affect anyone who isn’t getting enough sleep, the consequences to teenagers can be different than those for adults.  Here are some of the problems the National Sleep Foundation and the American Psychological Association sleep deprivation in teens can cause:

  • Problems with learning including difficulty concentrating, listening, problem solving, remembering, and with behavior.  Sleep deprivation can lead to aggressive and inappropriate behavior including outbursts, anger, and impatience.
  • Acne.
  • Increases the likelihood of overeating and making bad food choices which when combined with hormonal changes caused by lack of sleep contribute to weight gain and obesity.
  • Increases the use of caffeine and nicotine.
  • Increases the risk of being involved in a drowsy driving accident.
  • May be linked to depression and other mood disorders.

 

The best way to combat sleep deprivation in teenagers is to make sleep a priority and encourage them to follow a consistent sleep routine.  Helping teens learn to use naps appropriately, create a good sleep environment, and stick to a schedule can decrease their likelihood of being sleep deprived while also teaching them the skills they need to be good sleep managers throughout their lives.