Helping Teenagers Sleep Well
New research highlights the dangers that teens having poor sleep patterns can trigger; the distractions of modern life – computers, phones and constant online interaction, further disrupts sleeping habits that are already disturbed by changing hormones. As they move from the child phase to adult life, low quality sleep and simply not enough time to sleep deeply and well seriously affects daily life and can trigger serious concerns for young adults. Drugs, alcohol problems and poor decisions regarding casual relationships can be linked to teens finding it difficult to adapt their own rest needs as they mature.
Most teenagers need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep a night but struggle to switch off and relax before 11pm. With school hours requiring children to rise before 7am, this can mean some teenagers are vulnerable to losing one hour a day of vital rest time, when their brain and body can recharge. Lack of sleep is linked to stress, depression and poor learning, often with mood and judgement being severely affected. This leads to ‘catch up’ sleep at weekends which in turn impacts internal body clocks, exacerbating the problem long term.
Finding ways to help them build a bedtime routine that relaxes them may include the following ideas:-
• Make bedtime appealing; indulge them in a really comfortable futon or bed that appeals to their adult side and encourages them to relax comfortably in their room at the end of the day.
• Make sure their pillows and duvet are supportive for reading in bed at night and are warm and comfortable.
• Have a notepad on their bedside table to write down worries or work they need to finish or ideas; this allows them to clear their mind for sleep.
• Ensure the room is well ventilated to combat insomnia.
• Have a sensible storage area for homework, ideally not in their room, to discourage late night stressful working.
• Work with them to remember boundary times when they should be putting down gadgets and revision and picking up a relaxing book.
Helping teens to regulate their own sleep behaviour can be a challenge, particularly as it is not an age group naturally inclined to listen to parental advice. Giving the facts and examples of how a lack of recuperation time from often hectic and stressful school days is vital; habits learned during childhood will carry over into adult lifestyles. While grasping the notion that sleep will help you do better at exams might be hard to believe, letting them know that it could well banish spots might be a more concrete reason to work harder on getting to bed earlier!
Perhaps the most important advice is to lead by example – practise what you preach!