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Sleep Deprivation or Depression ?

We are homeschoolers of a 16 and a half year old son. We also attend church. He has always been a strong willed child.....but lately he has become very hateful at times and up and down with his emotions... almost at the drop of a hat. We have found out he is not sleeping well at night and he has got to the point where he cannot stay awake during school work or anything else. He is barely making it with his school work and doesn't seem to care. He is very musical and has decided that music is all he cares about and wants to do. As a christian kid you would think that he has never learned a thing about how to treat people with respect. We tried to get him to consider taking something to help him sleep better and he refuses. I think he is suffering from sleep deprivation. He won't talk about anything with us....he just gets mad and asks why we care. How do you deal with a sleep deprived kid when he refuses to try anything to help him get better!

He had a breakup with a girlfriend that seemed to totally mess him up and he hasn't been sleeping well since.

Thank you for your course ...before we got it, we felt like there was no hope....maybe I missed it but I didn't see anything on sleep deprivation. Again...thank you for the hope you've given us.

PS...All we are asking him to try is melatonin…which is a natural substance. He just refuses to even consider it.


Hi R.,

I’m not sure sleep deprivation is the issue here (depression more likely). But since you asked about it specifically, I’ll give you some tips to share with your son:

• Crazy video games. Video games may also cause your brain to enter the overdrive zone. If you play video games, don't do them just before you go to bed.

• Do you really need that after-school job? This might be a really tough decision, too. Some students need to work so they can pay for car insurance or save up for college. You'll just have to decide on your own, what's necessary and what's not.

• Don't think too hard right before bed time. If you have calculus homework, you might not want to put it off until night. It's harder to relax and get to sleep when your mind is stuck in the deep-thinking mode. It takes awhile to unwind, so maybe you should tackle the hardest subject earlier.

• Keep track of time. Often, students have great intentions, but other tasks seem to keep them up late, time after time. That's because teens have to develop an understanding of time management and task completion. It's hard to put a timetable on things like running an errand or completing a science experiment. Start keeping track of things you do routinely and the amount of time needed to do certain tasks. Then plan ahead so you can get to bed on time.

• Limit after-school activities. It's hard to do, but try to limit your extra-curriculars. Sometimes you just have to make a hard choice and stick to it. You may need to strike a balance between making time for homework and sleep and gaining valuable experience in an extracurricular activity that will help your chances of getting into a great college. Know your priorities.

• Play music if you want, but not too loud. Many people play music at night. If it doesn't bother you, go ahead. Don’t play it too loud, though, or it will disrupt your sleep.

• Try caffeine free drinks. Try reducing caffeine by switching to something healthier, like bottled water. OK, if that's too much to ask, at least try a caffeine-free version of your favorite drink!

• Turn off the cell phone. What's so important it can’t wait until morning? Unless you have a really good reason--like your parent works at night and might need to reach you, turn it off and get some rest.

• Turn off the TV at night. Some teens fall asleep with the TV on, and some are so used to the noise they think they can't sleep without it. Not true! The TV noises and flashing lights will only keep you from getting a sound sleep. If you can remember things you heard during your sleep, you're not sleeping well.

Good luck,

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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