10 Things to Know About Your Teenagers and Sleep
Julian Pipolo manages Sleep On It!, a non-profit community organization aiming to promote proper sleep for young people.
Teenagers deal with a range of problems that sometimes make it seem as if their — and, naturally, your — lives are about to fall to pieces. Unfortunately, this is just part of your kids’ growing up, and there is no quick-fix cure to ail all their various concerns and insecurities. However, what parents and teens sometimes seem to overlook is the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation in your teenager can seriously affect them in ways that sometimes aren’t immediately obvious.
Adolescents need around 9–10 hours sleep — more than any other age group. Of course, teenagers also get the least amount of sleep. The Sleep Foundation reports that only around 15% of teens get anywhere near this number. As a result, there is a very good chance that your child is suffering from sleep deprivation and it is affecting their mind and body.
Obviously, it’s not easy to always simply tell a teenager to get to bed. It’s not in their nature! Part of being a young rebel is staying up late, watching TV and sleeping in wherever possible. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get kids off their mobile phones and computers, and this is a serious problem for sleeping.
We’re compiled a list of 10 helpful things to know about teenagers and sleep which might help give you and your child a better understanding of why they need their 9 hours!
1. Teenagers Are Natural Night-Owls
The Sleep Foundation asserts that a teenager’s biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence. This means you shouldn’t expect your teenager to be fast asleep before anything around 11:00 pm. Teenagers will naturally stay awake later, but it is more important to ensure that they don’t pull any ‘all-nighters’ that can completely throw their biological sleeping clocks out-of-whack. An appropriate, consistent, reasonably late bedtime is fine and unavoidable.
2. Try to Keep It Consistent
Teenagers’ biological sleep patterns are very delicate and need to be kept in check if at all possible. This means that it’s very important to keep a teenager’s sleep and wake-up time relatively consistent. Sleeping in on the weekends for an extra hour or so is fine, but if it gets too out of hand it will completely throw off their sleep patterns. Likewise, try and get them asleep early on Sunday nights to keep that pattern going into the weekdays.
3. Go Towards The Light!
Try and keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark at night, but let in the light in the morning. Unleash blinding sunlight on your kids to get them used to getting up! When it comes to waking your teens, you want to break their sleep pattern.
4. Their Body is a Temple…
The body should be prepped for sleep every night. Ideally, try and get them to stay away from food, drink or exercise at least a few hours before they go to sleep. Fill them up with a big dinner so they won’t snack later and definitely don’t let them anywhere near the coffee!
This is a tricky one. When you are aged 13–20 your body will ‘delay’ in releasing melatonin from the brain to the body. This is why teens are not sleepy until later in the evening. When they use phones or computer screens they suppress their levels of melatonin, making it even harder to get to sleep. This makes it so important to get your kids away from the screens at least an hour before bed if possible. This counts for homework too!
6. Routine! Routine! Routine!
Your body craves predictability, and your teen is no different. If you can ‘trigger’ the body into getting used to the same routine it will start doing it on its own. For teenagers and sleep this might mean performing an act every night which ‘triggers’ their body to know it is time to sleep. Tell them to take a shower or bath every night or even read a book. Keeping it regular will help it become second-nature for their bodies.
7. Never Underestimate the Nap
Naps are a good way of catching up on sleep for a teen. A good way to get your child to nap is to tell them to have a quick one straight away when they get home from school for around half an hour. Make sure it’s not too long because that might disrupt their sleep patterns. Admittedly, some kids might have just a bit too much energy to nap after school, but for others this will be welcome relaxation.
8. Don’t Overwork Them
Your children will have plenty of time in their lives to stress about partners, work, family and bills. Don’t put too much on their plate. It is true that adolescents have a lot of energy but that also means they need a lot of time to recharge. Try and make sure your children’s workload is not excessive, particularly after school on weekdays. Their weeks should be structured so that they don’t have anything important to do around 10:00 pm on any weeknights.
9. Invest in a Calendar/Diary
Here’s an easy way to get your teen more organised: wait till your child is out of the house, buy a calendar that measures time by the hour in each day, and nail it to their bedroom wall. Some kids — particularly the organised types — will start using it without any assistance, and you can slowly suggest that they should keep track of how many hours they sleep. Eventually, you both might figure out which days they are getting less sleep and which days are easier to deal with. Give your teen some responsibility for their sleep.
10. See a Doctor
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just make adolescents tired — it makes them depressed and affects their ability to perform mentally and physically. If your child is struggling to sleep it may be indicative of a more serious problem they are suffering from such as sleep apnea or Restless Leg Syndrome. Contacting a doctor may be a necessary step.
Sleep On It! is a non-profit community organisation aiming to promote proper sleep for young
people. You can support their cause on Facebook, Twitter and on their website!