Teens have a lot to deal with, including homework, working at part-time jobs, and engaging in family activities and social activities. They are also developing and may experience rapid growth spurts that throw off their sleep schedules. Hectic schedules and erratic sleep patterns can leave teens feeling tired and short on energy. When a teen has problems feeling rested despite a sufficient sleep schedule, it is important to know the difference between normal fatigue and extreme exhaustion, which can have underlying causes.
Teen girls worry quite a bit about their appearance. In addition to wearing the right clothes and makeup and having the right hair style, they do whatever they can to remain thin. Girls who practice extreme dieting to keep that slim figure can easily become anemic. Anemia is characterized by a lack of healthy red blood cells, which can deprive the body’s tissues of oxygen. Adolescent girls lose a substantial amount of iron during menstruation. If their diet does not contain enough iron to replace what they have lost, they can suffer from iron deficiency anemia. The main symptoms of the condition are extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. Your doctor can diagnose anemia with a simple blood test, and treatment usually includes changes to your diet and taking iron supplements.
Infectious mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It is most commonly seen in teenagers and young adults who have not built up the necessary antibodies to the virus. This was once known as the “kissing disease,” since it was thought to be spread primarily through kissing. The first symptom most people notice is extreme fatigue, although the disease can also cause a fever, sore throat, swollen tonsils, generalized weakness and headache. There are no drugs to treat mononucleosis; medical professionals will usually recommend bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids.
Diagnosing depression in teens is not always an easy task, as they tend to be unable or unwilling to verbalize their feelings of depression, or they simply may not recognize the symptoms. Teens suffering from depression often have trouble falling asleep, which leaves them feeling fatigued during the day. Other symptoms of depression include:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of interest in hobbies, friends or activities
- Feelings of sadness
- Loss of appetite
Depression can be situational, such as that which occurs after a traumatic event or the loss of a friend or family member, or it can be chronic. In either case, depressed teens should seek the help of a mental health professional.
Erratic Sleep Schedules
Friday and Saturday nights are usually the highlight of a teen’s week. They tend to stay up very late and then sleep in the next morning. This can cause a delayed sleep cycle, where they have difficulty adjusting and falling asleep on Sunday evenings, which leaves them starting out their week with insufficient sleep, resulting in daytime fatigue. Teens often resist sleep, spending the night texting in bed or watching television; this sleep deprivation also causes them to feel tired during the day. Teenagers must understand that in order to perform their best during school hours, sleep is of the utmost importance. Although national guidelines recommend that teenagers get at least eight hours of good sleep each night, an informal study conducted by Brigham Young University concluded that 16-year-old teens performed best on standardized testing when they had at least seven hours of sleep.
Anemia, mononucleosis, lack of sleep and depression are the most common causes of teen fatigue, but they are not the only causes. Other conditions that can cause teens to feel tired include:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Sleep apnea
- Thyroid disease
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Untreated bacterial infections
- Emotional stress
If you find that you are feeling tired all the time and it is difficult performing regular activities, talk to your parents. There are many reasons why you might be feeling this way, and the diagnosis and treatment might be simpler than you think.