Worried about your teen’s sleeping pattern? Find out how you can help your child get settled into a healthier sleep schedule…
It’s widely recommended that teenagers get 8-10 hours of sleep every night, but the majority of teens aren’t getting anywhere near that. The lure of late-night Netflix binges, gaming into the early hours of the morning and scrolling social media until 3am means many of our teens are struggling to get a good night’s sleep. But it’s not just entertainment that’s keeping our kids up at night – school and home stresses and pressures can also lead to restless nights.
Why Is This A Problem?
Sleep is especially important for teenagers because they are still growing and maturing.
A lack of good quality sleep can affect your teen in many ways, including:
- Concentration and focusing on tasks
- Coping with stress
- Mood swings
- Growth and development
- Problem-solving abilities
- Diet and general health
- Mental health
Sleep gives our bodies the time it needs to rest and regenerate, and for our brain to process everything we’ve experienced throughout the day. Rob Brydon, nutritionist and author of The Art Of Sleeping says:
“This is a vital period of replenishment and repair for your body and a time when your brain is given the opportunity to process information, memories and experiences.”
The Teenage Sleep Cycle
You may have noticed that your teen becomes more alert and awake in the evenings and sleeps longer and later in the mornings. ‘Typical teenager’, you might think to yourself, and you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s typical behaviour because our teenagers’ bodies are biologically programmed to behave in just this way. During puberty, our body’s natural sleep pattern shifts, meaning that a teenager is much more likely to fall asleep and wake up later. This starts to fade as they become an adult.
Falling asleep late often leads to struggling to wake up in the morning, creating grogginess and grumpiness. When your teen finally falls into bed at night, they’re unable to switch off and so the cycle begins again. Sleep deprivation then starts to affect your teen’s mental and physical well-being in a negative way.
How Can I Help?
It’s not an easy task to get a teenager to go to bed at a decent time (we’re sure you’ve tried on many occasions in the past!) but there are ways to encourage your teen to adopt better sleep habits. Let’s take a look at some of these suggestions to find what works for you and your teen:
- Talk to your teen about the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep – healthier skin, less stressful mornings, reduced mood swings etc. By focusing on the potential positive benefits and not on strict bedtimes, you can help your teen to see why this really could be beneficial to their every-day life.
- Establish a wind-down routine. Encourage your teen to ditch the screens a few hours before bedtime as blue light can interfere with drifting off to sleep. Instead, suggest they take a long, relaxing bath, snuggle up with a book or listen to a podcast.
- Exercise not only boosts your mood, but it can also relieve stress and make you feel ready for sleep when it’s time to go to bed. Why not take a daily walk with your teen or ask them to take the dog out for a stroll?
- Encourage your teen to talk about anything that’s worrying them or to write it all down to unburden any thoughts or worries that may be keeping them awake at night. It can also help to make a to-do list to organise and plan any tasks they have to do the following day to reduce anxieties.
- Apps are a great way to encourage a better night’s sleep. Check out our Five Of The Best Sleep Apps guide here and challenge your teen to give one of them a go tonight. Whether it’s a meditation exercise or a lulling bedtime story, there are lots of tools designed to help you drift off more easily.
- Try to get your teen to eat a nutritious, balanced diet throughout the day and to avoid sugar and caffeine in the evenings.
- Create a snooze zone. Help your teen to create a comfortable bedroom space that invites sleep. Declutter as much as you can and keep the room cool and dark to create the optimum sleep environment. You could go one step further (if they’ll allow it!) and remove any screens from the bedroom or simply set a limit on screen-time. For more helpful tips on creating a comfy sleep space, read The Snooze Zone.
A Good Night’s Sleep (Hopefully!)
Much like you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, you can give your teen the tools and advice they need but you can’t make them fall asleep. Don’t worry if these changes don’t have an effect at first – it can take a few nights or even weeks to become accustomed to a new routine and to reap the benefits. Encourage your teen to keep trying or adjust the routine to find what works best for them. Soon your teen will start to feel the benefits and will hopefully enjoy a deeper, longer sleep every night of the week!