Guide to teen health | Blackmores

Guide to teen health

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Help your teenager stay happy and healthy with our go-to guide that tackles a handful of key areas.

Teenagers and sleep

The facts: Teenagers need up to 10 hours sleep each night. 

“Most adolescents don’t obtain sleep in the recommended range of 8 to 10 hours per night,” says Dr Michelle Short, who conducted a 2018 sleep study on teenagers, at Flinders University’s Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic. 

In fact, most teenagers only get about 6.5-7.5 hours of sleep a night. 

“Our study of sleep deprivation in controlled conditions shows that this clearly affects the ability to function well, as well as their mental health and sense of wellbeing,” says Dr Short. 

Signs that your teen might have a problem with their sleep include: feeling sleepy during the day; needing to be woken up on school days; falling asleep too quickly (in less than five minutes) or too slowly (in more than 30 minutes); or finding it very difficult to wake up in the morning.

Take action: Rather than arguing about bedtime, brainstorm ways to increase your teen’s quota of sleep, together. You might:
  • Encourage them to sleep in on weekends and have an early night every Sunday
  • Negotiate appropriate limits for screen time, bearing in mind research shows teenagers who put down their phones an hour before bed gain an extra 21 minutes sleep a night
  • Help your teenager to assess their weekly schedule to see if they’re over-committed and look at how they might be able to free up time for rest and sleep

Healthy eating for teens

The facts: According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Nutrition Across the Life Stages report, released in October 2018, while diet quality is poor across all age groups, it’s particularly true for teenagers: 

99 per cent don’t eat enough vegetables, and discretionary – or ‘junk’ – food makes up more than 40 per cent of their daily energy intake.

Take action: Introducing family meals, even a few times a week, is a good place to start, as research shows they promote healthier eating patterns. 

You could also encourage your teens to help out in the kitchen – kids who assist with preparing meals feel more confident about the importance of making healthier food choices. 

And do what you can to make it as easy as possible for your teenagers to choose healthier snack options at home. Making healthier foods both visible and accessible for children increases the consumption of those foods.
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On the topic of weight

The facts: More than a quarter of Australian teenagers are either overweight bumping up their risk of developing chronic conditions as they grow older. 

They may also experience low self-esteem. Plus, about 80 per cent of teenagers that are overweight are more likely to be so as they become adults. 

Take action:
If you’d like to help your teenager maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to approach the topic in the right way. 

Weight and appearance are often emotionally charged areas for an adolescent, so you’ll need to approach the issue with a high degree of sensitivity. 

Since children model their behaviour on that of the adults around them, one of the best things you can do is focus on improving your own healthy-living activities. Increase the family’s intake of vegetables, incorporate more exercise into your life and encourage your kids to join you. 

It’s best to focus on talking about health and healthy lifestyles, rather than discussing weight loss – and to adopt those healthy lifestyle changes as a family.

Exercise for teenagers

The facts: It’s recommended that teenagers do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, but about 80 per cent of Australian teenagers aren’t hitting that target. 

On the flip side, statistics show that roughly the same number of teenagers spend more than two hours a day using electronic devices for entertainment. 

Take action: As well as setting some boundaries around screen time, commit to being more active together as a family. 

Not only does research show that children who say their parents don’t exercise regularly have a 50 per cent greater risk of being unfit, but it also shows that parents who are active alongside their children are 35 per cent more likely to report that they believe their kids do enough activity.

Teens and stress

The facts: Common causes of stress for teenagers are school work and exams, lack of time, social relationships, family expectations for them to do well at school, and social media. 

Plus, teenagers’ stress levels tend to rise when they’re not getting enough sleep. 

Warning signs of stress include expressing out-of-character hostility toward family members, abandoning long-time friendships, avoiding parents and even physical symptoms, such as stomach aches and headaches.

Take action: Mission Australia’s 2017 Youth Survey found 45.3 per cent of Australian teenagers were concerned about their ability to cope with stress. 

Exercise, a healthy diet and getting sufficient sleep can help teenagers deal with stress, but so can equipping them with effective coping skills. 

Encourage your teen to write down the things that are causing them to feel stressed and to identify whether it’s something they can control. If the source of the stress is controllable, reassure them there are changes they can make and, together, devise a plan.