Teenagers can be out of sync with the rest of the world in so many ways and sleeping patterns are another! Are your teenagers eating bowls of cereal as you head off to bed? Or watching Netflix and doing homework till midnight? Whilst studies have shown that teenagers need 9-10 hours sleep a night, most of our pubescent friends are managing only seven to eight hours, leaving them cranky and hard to get out of bed in the morning.
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just lead to unpleasant encounters over the breakfast table each morning - it can have an impact on lots of other aspects of a teen’s life:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness and aggression
- Poorer academic performance
- Clumsiness and reduced sporting performance
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Memory problems
- Risk taking behaviour
- Reduced ability to make good decisions
- Weakened immune system leading to increased chance of illness
The good news is that they are not just being difficult – puberty hormones actually shift the teenage body clock, so it produces melatonin two hours later in the day, which means teenagers are not sleepy till later at night and want to sleep longer in the morning.
In teenage Utopia school or work would start a couple of hours later in the morning (or not at all!) to acknowledge this little blip of nature. Unfortunately for them, that’s not the case, so we need to work out some ways to help our teenagers get their much- needed zeds.
TIPS FOR TEENAGERS TO HELP IMPROVE THEIR SLEEP
- Make sleep a priority – your family and friends will thank you for it!
- Work out a bedtime routine and stick to it. That might include a shower, drinking a warm milk drink and reading or listening to a meditation app. Try and go to bed at the same time each night and wake up the same time each morning. ‘Catching up’ on the weekends won’t improve your weekday routine. Make a point of starting the week well by having an early night on Sundays.
- Keep physically active during the day but don’t exercise right before you go to bed.
- Alcohol, caffeine and chocolate can all affect your quality of sleep. Avoid drinking these before bed if you can. A hot, milky drink before bed can help you relax.
- Try to have an hour before bed which is free from electronic devices and television. The light exposure from mobile phones and computers stimulates the brain and can prevent the brain from producing melatonin, which is the brain chemical needed to help you go off to sleep.
- Create an environment In their bedroom which promotes sleep. Draw the curtains and turn off any lights. The room temperature should be like Goldilocks’ porridge – not too hot or cold!
- Is there something on your mind? Worries always seem to be so much worse at night. Allocate some time in your day to talking and problem solving so your brain can have a rest from thinking about these things at night.
If your teenager has tried these things and is still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor.
Remember that even half an hour’s extra sleep per night can have beneficial effects. If your teenagers are sleeping better, chances are you will too!