When to worry about tiredness in teens
If you have a teenager in the house, you’ll probably be quite familiar with the daily struggle to get them to go to sleep at night and get them back up in the morning. Tiredness in teens is very common for young people for many reasons, but it can also be a symptom of, or precursor to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). So, what should parents and carers be looking out for and when should they be reaching out for help?
Normal tiredness in teenagers
If your teenager is tired all the time, there are lots of reasons for it that should be no cause for concern. For example, changes to their circadian rhythms (their internal body clock) during puberty can delay sleeping patterns so teens are tired later in the evening and therefore, later to rise in the morning. With school or college to get to first thing, a lie in isn’t possible during the week, which then leads to tiredness in teens as they aren’t getting their recommended 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
Hormonal changes during puberty, on top of increased educational, extra-curricular and social demands, can also increase fatigue in teens. In addition to hormonal and lifestyle factors, there’s also the use of electronic devices – such as smart devices, laptops and games consoles – in the evening and the negative effects of blue light on melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone which makes us drowsy when it’s time for bed.
To help resolve some of the more common causes for tiredness in teens, there’s plenty of advice available from GPs, health professionals and online about how parents can help regulate their teen’s sleep patterns to ensure they get more rest. For example, ensuring electronics are put away at least an hour before bedtime and making sure their weekly calendar of activities isn’t overwhelming.
But if you’ve tried all the obvious things and you are still worried about teen tiredness, there may be a chance that it is stress-related and this could lead to a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), sometimes referred to as Teenage Fatigue Syndrome.
The relationship between stress and teen CFS
Some stress is good for teens. For example, it can help them to perform under pressure in their exams or hit homework deadlines. Most teens learn to cope with the different challenges and experiences they encounter as they go through life and this keeps their stress levels in check.
However, sometimes the physical or mental demands on them can be too much and it exceeds their capacity to cope. Their stress can then manifest into feelings of being overwhelmed and eventually exhausted.
Recent studies have shown powerful evidence that our minds affect our health and wellbeing in all kinds of ways, including how stress, anxiety and depression can manifest in the body as physical symptoms.
How does stress cause tiredness in teenagers?
Teenagers – and adults for that matter – can get locked into a cycle of illness which starts as the mind and body’s response to stress. This could be caused by external stressors such as trauma, life experiences or daily hassles such as going to school, or internal stressors, which are the most common sources of stress. Internal stressors include thoughts and feelings that make teens feel uneasy, such being worried about things, having unrealistic expectations of themselves or others or having low self-esteem.
Regardless of where the stress comes from, it fires up the body’s stress response – fight or flight. This is the survival instinct we are all born with, and it triggers when we sense danger. Once the danger passes, homeostasis (normal body function) should return, but if your teen is experiencing a lot of worry, anxiety or fear, the fight or flight responses gets locked on – causing more stress. And so the cycle begins and once it becomes established, it is difficult to break.
Help to overcome teenage CFS
If you are worried about teen tiredness or CFS, and have ruled out other health and environmental factors, come and talk to us. At New Pathways, we give teens the tools and strategies they need to reinstate positive responses that let the body and mind function in a normal healthy way. Essentially, we can help teach your teen to ‘rewire’ the pathways in their brain to make themselves well again.
Our unique programme is easy to follow, simple for teens to use in their everyday lives and their wellbeing can be transformed in just a few weeks. The techniques we teach can be used throughout their lives to help them cope with the challenges and stresses of everyday life to ensure they stay well.
I have worked with many young people over the years who have been stuck in the chronic illness cycle, battling with teen CFS. They were untreatable by doctors because healthcare professionals are often focused on curing the symptoms (the tiredness and fatigue) and not the cause, which in both Helen and Darragh’s cases, was stress.
I suffered with chronic fatigue syndrome for seven years. I was diagnosed at age 12 and struggled massively with its debilitating effects. It hugely impacted upon my education and social life, I was bed ridden for almost three years and had to put school and sporting aspirations on hold.
After completing the Programme, my life has changed beyond recognition. I decided to take some time to work, travel and get some real world experience under my belt. I’m currently working on a few A-Levels in preparation for interviews I’ve secured with Oxford and Cambridge.
When I was 13, I collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. There was no obvious reason and after lots of tests I was discharged with ‘unexplained fatigue’. I managed to improve a little but had to use a wheelchair to get about and even had to be lifted to go upstairs at home. I had disturbed and unrefreshing sleep, panic attacks and I couldn’t socialise as I was so sensitive to light, noise and movement. I had fatigue, dizziness and nausea as well. I was housebound with little social contact and was ill for about a year.
On day one of the course, I started using the techniques I’d learned in the afternoon and was able to go out afterwards – despite doing much more than I would normally. As the days progressed, I was able to keep going all day and although tired at times and struggling with some of my symptoms, I had no major relapse.
The improvements are hard work sometimes as I have to keep working at it, but in just a few weeks I can see I am so different and starting to do all the things I did before.
Both Darragh and Helen have gone on to lead normal, happy and fulfilled lives.
You can see our testimonials page for more stories of young people whose lives have been transformed by the New Pathways programme. We also have parents who are happy to share their experiences – ask me if you’d like an introduction.
Teen CFS and you
If you are worried about your teenager and would like to know more about our programme and how it can help overcome stress-related fatigue and tiredness in teens, head to our contact page to arrange a free discovery call today.