Best Beds For Children And Teens- How To Choose The Right Mattress To Grow Brains And Bodies

Restorative sleep is critical for growing brains. Without a full 7-9 hours of sleep on a mattress that provides proper comfort and support, as well as helping to induce sleep and keep you in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep for as long as possible, sleep is nourishment for the mind a helps to evolve the brain to its fully developed state. During sleep, organ systems are busy at work repairing and growing, and a tremendous amount of brain activity is happening behind the scenes.

Children, tweens, and teenagers, all from the ages of 8-18, require at least 8 solid hours of interrupted sleep, with “long sleepers” needing 10 or more. I have a son who is 24 and starting his first year of medical school this Fall. He has been a long sleeper all of his life, even as a toddler. In undergraduate school, he found it difficult to maneuver through semesters with early classes because he requires at least 10 hours of solid sleep. Anything less, and he’s the undead, in a zombie like state, fatigued and unable to think clearly. As a parent, I knew to accommodate this early on and not force an early to rise mentality.

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For a teenager, skipping sleep can be highly destructive and even deadly, particularly when driving. Teens become quickly disheveled and out of sorts without sleep, becoming irritable, less productive, and perform poorly on tests, and physical actions become less sharp and precise.

Late nights and a lot of time on electronic devices is also a contributor to poor sleep hygiene for children and teens. Exposure to bright white light for hours on end instructs the brain to stay awake and not respond to normal circadium rhythms.

Exposure to darkness is essential to cycling the brain in preparation for sleep. That’s also why placing a TV in a child’s sleep area is a bad idea. Remember: A brain that is hungry for sleep will seek it out, even if you fight it. As an example, drowsiness and falling asleep while driving causes over 110,000 car crashes every year. When you do not get enough restorative and uninterrupted sleep, you are more likely to have an accident, injury and/or illness.

Our immune systems often become the first system to crash and burn, which creates a cascading effect behind it. Children and teens have developing immune systems that need to be nurtured and fed with rest and downtime, and sleep is essential to this process. As important as physical activity is to growing bodies, so sleep is as important, if not more.

The facts

  • Sleep is vital to your well-being, and children and teenagers are subject to as much stress as adults, often dealing with poor eating habits, social conflict, and academic challenges, as they carve out their place in the world.

  • Biological sleep patterns often shift for both sleeping and waking during adolescence, and it may become completely unnatural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm or later.

  • Teens require 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at peak efficiency. Most teens do not get anywhere near enough sleep, in fact one study found that only 15% of teenagers surveyed actually slept for 8 hours or more on school nights.

  • Tweens and teens often have irregular sleep patterns across the week, staying up late and sleeping late on weekends, disrupting patterns in their biological clocks and reducing the quality of their sleep.

  • Many teens suffer from an entire spectrum of sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, even sleep apnea. A lot of these disorders can be relieved with the proper mattress.

Consequences

Not getting enough restorative sleep as a child or teenager can:

  • Limit their ability to learn, absorb, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget essential information like names, numbers, homework or a scheduled event.

  • Make them more prone to severe acne. Lack of sleep can contribute to a host of dermatologic problems, a serious emotional stressor for tweens and teenagers.

  • Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as hostility with friends, or being impatient with teachers or family members

  • Increase overeating, especially unhealthy foods with excessive sugar, or fried foods that lead to weight gain

  • Dramatically increase the effects of alcohol and the use of caffeine and nicotine to cope.

  • Contribute to illness, increased danger using machines or equipment, and driving fatalities

Solutions

  • Make sleep a priority. Keep a sleep diary or calendar. Help your child determine what you need to change to get enough sleep to grow their bodies and brains, and improve their waking hour function.

  • Naps can help recharge and make you work more efficiently, if you schedule them correctly. Naps that are too lengthy or too close to bedtime can interfere with regular sleep. Ideal nap length: 30 minutes.

  • Make your room a sleep sanctuary. Keep it cool, quiet and dark. If you need to, get an eye mask or blackout curtains. In the morning, at a predetermined time, allow bright light in the morning to signal your body to get going.

  • Buy a mattress that is comforting, nest like, offers good back support, and sleeps cool. Scroll down below this section to view our handpicked selection of excellent mattress options for children over 8, tweens, and teenagers. You can review our bed size page also to determine what size might be appropriate.

  • Sleep medications, vitamins or drinks can alter or improve good sleep over a length of time. Consuming caffeine close to bedtime can disturb sleep, so avoid coffee, tea, sodas and even chocolate late in the day so you can fall sleep at night. Nicotine and alcohol will also interfere greatly with sleep.

  • When you are sleep deprived, you are as just as compromised as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08%, illegal for drivers in many states. Sleep deprived driving causes over 110,000 crashes each year. Recognize sleep deprivation and find another way home is you are too tired to drive.

  • Establish a bed and wake-up time and stick with it, even on the weekends. A consistent sleep schedule will help you fresh and crisp since it allows your body to get in sync with its natural patterns.

  • Don’t eat, drink, or exercise for at least two hours prior to your bedtime. Try to avoid the TV, computer and cell phone one hour before you go to bed. Find a calm, quiet, wind down activity that winds down your brain, and you’ll fall asleep much more easily

  • If you do the same things every night prior to sleep, you condition your body to know that it’s time for bed. Try taking a bath or shower prior to falling asleep, read a book or magazine, but not on your cell phone.

best beds for tweens and teens- selected by an industry expert

As far as the comfort and support, and the feel of the actual mattress, younger children, even teenagers should be adapted to as firm a mattress as possible, in our opinion. Spine alignment, which helps form healthy postures and minimizes back issues down the road, can be introduced early on if parents provide the right bed. Avoid something too soft, as it is typically restrictive, is difficult to turn on, and promotes poor sleep hygiene by constantly waking your child up, disrupting REM sleep. Go with a firmer foam hybrid, firmer coil hybrid, or natural latex for kids 5-19. They’ll be well rested, and more likely to be easily adaptable to other sleep surfaces as they venture off on their own. Older teenagers generally will seek out a medium firm mattress, something supportive but with a little bit of nestle factor, and softer latex, or even a latex/coil hybrid is a good choice, especially if you want to narrow it down to say, the 16-20 year old bracket. We still want to provide support and encourage good back support and posture, even at this stage of the game.

Poll Data

While everyone is accustomed to having sleep disruptions and a poor night’s sleep on occasion, The National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 Sleep in America poll determined that many adolescents exhibit symptoms of depressed mood on a frequent basis, and these teens are far more likely to have sleep problems.

The NSF poll revealed depressive mood scores for each of the 1,602 participants by measuring adolescents' responses to four mood “states”:

  • Felt unhappy, sad or depressed

  • Felt hopeless about the future

  • Felt nervous or tense

  • Worried too much about things

The results showed that about 46% of the adolescents surveyed had a depressive mood score of 10 to 14, 37% had a score of 15 to 19, and 17% had a score of 20 to 30; these scores are regarded as low, moderate and high, respectively.

Not surpisingly, those adolescents with high scores ranging from 20 to 30 were more likely teens with lower scores to take longer to fall asleep especially on school nights, resulting in an insufficient amount of sleep and reporting problems of daytime drowsiness. In fact, 73% of those teens who report feeling unhappy and depressed also report not getting enough sleep at night and being excessively sleepy during the day.

While many adults may think that young people have very simplistic and easy lives and therefore are not entitled to have mood or dysthymic (depression) disorders should be aware that the opposite seems true according to the NSF poll as well as many other studies of teens. Most adolescents were likely to say they obsessed over seemingly simple and inconsequential matters (58%) and/or experienced severe anxiety (56%). Many of the teens surveyed also reported desperate or hopeless about the future, feeling unhappy and sad a substantial portion of time within the past two weeks of surveying.

Research shows poor sleep hygiene and lack of restorative sleep affects mood and this alone can result in ineffective sleep. To stop this vicious cycle, sleep experts advise that teens prioritize sleep and focus on healthy sleep habits. Tweens and teens can start by getting the 8 to 10 hours of sleep they require each night, keeping consistent sleep/wake schedules on school nights and weekends, and choosing relaxing activities such as reading or taking a warm shower or bath before bed instead of turning on the TV or computer, or holding their cell phones close to their eyes exposing themselves to bright white light.

"If parents and teens understand what good sleep entails and the benefits of developing a plan that supports good sleep, then they might re-examine their choices about what truly are their ‘essential’ activities," stated Mary Carskadon, Ph.D., Director of Chronobiology/Sleep Research at the E.P. Bradley Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University Medical School in Providence, R.I. "The earlier parents start helping their children develop good sleep habits, the easier it will be to experience a positive and happy experience through their teen years."