Teenagers and sleep: developing good habits

The thing about teenagers and sleep is that they need a lot of it! But they don’t always want it, or they don’t want it at times that fit in with the rest of the world’s schedule.

teenagers and sleepParents who have not experienced sleep issues since their children were toddlers can suddenly find themselves sleep deprived from waiting up late for their teenagers to go to bed, or being woken in the middle of the night (by loud trips to the bathroom or mobile phones going off), or faced with a sullen moody monster who is impossible to rouse in the mornings.

Helping teenagers to develop healthy sleep habits can make a major contribution to teenagers’ overall wellbeing and success. So here are a few thoughts on how parents can help.

Teenagers and sleep: Key Facts

  • Sleep is essential for teenagers’ growth, learning, brain development and mood.
  • Sleep patterns tend to shift in the teenage years towards later sleeping and later waking.
  • Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep each night – but only 15% of them get enough sleep.
  • Sleep deprivation is linked to increased sugar cravings.
  • Using screens and technology within an hour of going to bed has been shown to affect quality of sleep negatively.
  • One in three 16 and 17 year olds has faced sleepless nights due to worry in the last year.

Teenagers and sleep: Top Tips for Parents

  • Make their bedrooms cool and comfortable – use blackout blinds to keep them dark and reduce noise levels in the rest of the house.
  • Just like for toddlers, a bedtime routine can aid good sleep habits by relaxing the muscles and providing the body and brain with sleep cues. Good ideas for teenagers include a regular bedtime, a warm bath before bed, some stretches, and reading a book.
  • Remove technology from teenagers’ bedrooms an hour before bedtime. No technology, no temptation.
  • Getting the recommended 60 minutes a day of exercise will improve a teenager’s sleep as well as their overall health.
  • The effects of caffeine can last many hours, making it harder to fall asleep and impairing deep sleep. Restrict coca cola, tea and coffee within 5 hours of bed time.
  • Eating late at night can make it harder to get to sleep and reduces quality of sleep. Encourage food and snacks at an earlier hour and discourage late night binges.
  • We all like a lie-in but don’t let teenagers take excessively long lie-ins at the weekends. It will knock them out of rhythm and make it harder to get to sleep in good time on Sunday evening.
  • Help teenagers develop strategies for dealing with stress and worry. Talking things through, writing down concerns on a piece of paper and then throwing it away, and deep breathing exercises can all help teens to relax overactive minds.

For more info, check out the NHS Choices website.

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©Anita Cleare 2015

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