Category: 3 Ways To Make Sure Your Teen Is Getting Enough Sleep

Is your teen getting enough sleep? Probably not. Although the hormone fluctuations, increased sensory input and stress experiences that teens face are plentiful and contribute to moodiness and behavioral outbursts that we expect in the teen years, there is another contributor to lack of emotional regulation; lack of sleep. Just like adults who lack sleep, teens who lack proper sleep will be more cranky, have slower reflexes, lower focus, increased depression and anxiety and overall, more prone to feeling unwell. The National Sleep Foundation states that adolescents should be getting at nine hours of sleep a night; most teens are not even getting seven hours. It may not be that they are not going “to bed” at the proper time, but most teens have a laptop, tablet or phone with them, keeping them awake. In my practice, I have heard teens state that they needed their phone to fall asleep, some even stating that they needed a certain playlist, video or to talk to certain individuals before sleeping. Some teens who are more social, are communicating with other teens in different time zones, throughout the day and night, also contributing to different social norms than their baby boomer parents may have been exposed to. Teens in this era, are exposed to social networking, and news and views virtually 24/7; often seeing adults handing conflict poorly, espousing radical and often non-respectful opinions, not only condoning but promoting gossip, hate and factually-lacking political and society “memes”. This doesn’t even include the external input of connecting to other teens, or viewing other teens lives through the looking glass of social media, comparing themselves to others who give an “image” snapshot of what may appear to be a perfect life. These are just some of the ways that teens of today are bombarded with negativity and stressful stimulation that contributes to their minds racing. Add to this worries about school, social life, home life and you have a child who may not be sleeping well much less enough. The three most effective ways to get teens on a habit of proper and quality sleep time that I have found is to set firm boundaries and a no-budge policy.

  1. Lights Out, Devices Off and Across the Room (or out of the room): At least one hour BEFORE bedtime, all devices with screens need to be off or away from eye view of the teen. The screens on most electronic devices stimulate the brain long after the device is turned off; so stopping the stimulation early enough is key. At first you may want to start this slowly but my recommendation is cold-turkey. Just set the new rule and stick by it. Expect some struggle at first and the typical “bartering” that will ensue, but stay firm.
  2. Promote a night-friendly hobby. A transportable, easy to execute hobby this is a great way to “unwind”. Reading a magazine or book (a real one, made out of paper, not online or on an screen device), sketching, playing with or care taking a pet, etc., are all ways to unwind before bed and transition from the day that will not involve watching a screen or interacting much with others. We all need to unwind, and teens often do not know how to do so, define it and will state that stimulating activities “calm” them; they do not understand the difference between enjoy vs calm sometimes.
  3. Take a look at the food intake; make sure it is not caffeinated nor stimulating (sugars) in the after-dinner hours. For some teens, eliminating caffeine or sugars is important from 3pm onward, for others, it is important to eliminate totally.

Overall, keep an eye on your child’s life and sleeping patterns. If they are not moving around much in the daytime, they may be physically alert and not require sleep. Some teens are over-stimulated and stressed, thus worry all night. Some will have signs of OCD or other emotional and mental obstacles.

Delving further, any changes in life or sleeping patterns can signal depression, anxiety or trouble in life and you may want to contact a mental health professional or pediatrician.

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