Teenagers can find it difficult to get a full night’s sleep. Their growing independence and ability to socialise can interfere as well as hormonal changes.
Understand the importance of sleep: Academic ability, memory and sports performance are all linked to sleep, as well as the ability to sort out problems and maintaining a better mood. So it is good to talk to teens about the benefits of sleep and how they can plan to have eight or nine hours every school night.
Routine is good. If teenagers plan to do the same things before bed each night it signals to their bodies that they are preparing for sleep. This can include a warm shower or bath, brushing teeth, changing into nightclothes and reading.
Regular sleep pattern: It is good if teens can go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time every day (including weekends). The body then adapts more readily to the circadian rhythm of their sleep and wake cycle. This means that when they go to bed they are much more able to fall asleep. If our teens need to catch up on sleep at the weekend, make sure that they wake no later than two hours after their normal waking time to avoid disrupting their normal sleep-wake cycle. An early afternoon nap (if needed) is better than a lie-in till noon
Exercise: Sleep is sometimes difficult when a teen has done no exercise during the day. 30-60 minutes of exercise can help –particularly when done in the early afternoon. This could include swimming, jogging, going to the gym, tennis, a team sport or long walk.
Talk through problems: Teenagers are under a huge amount of pressure –to look their best, to fit in socially, to perform well academically, and to deal with the myriad of problems that come with growing up and becoming independent. As their parents it is important to maintain a good relationship where they can talk through problems and work out their own solutions to help them to sleep when they are stressed.
Avoid caffeine where possible (in tea, coffee and cola) in the afternoon and evening, as it interferes with the ability to drop off to sleep and fall into deep sleep
Avoid screens for 30 minutes or an hour before going to bed. Computers, TV and Games consoles have bright changing lights – which inhibit the melatonin production in the body that signals sleep and stimulate the brain, making it difficult to drop off.
Remove TV’s from the bedroom and if possible Games consoles and computers. Not only will they affect our teen’s sleep, but family interaction and family mealtimes as well. A teen who is talking with us regularly is more likely to ask for advice and listen to us if we have a good relationship with them.
Limit Activities. If we can try to encourage our teens to keep the 12 hours before the school start time free of activities. This leaves them free to wind down and sleep in those 12 hours. Many teens feel that they need to socialise, do numerous activities and work part-time to be ‘well rounded’. Sometimes less is more, and the need for relaxation needs to be taken seriously if we are to prevent burn-out, depression or worse in our
Help with time management. Teens often don’t mean to go to bed as late as they do, but a combination of getting distracted (by Facebook, texting friends, TV programmes etc.) and not planning ahead to complete assignments / homework means that teenagers often stay up late to finish their work. Helping our teens establish a regular habit of starting homework in the early evening and calculating the time needed for each piece of work will reduce the chances that they have to work into the night.
Eat earlier. If teens are in the habit of eating a big meal just before bed, their grinding digestive system will make it difficult to fall asleep. Too much food or too little food before bed will affect sleep. A small wholegrain cereal or slice of wholegrain toast is a good snack if our teens are hungry just before sleep. A glass of warm milk also contains tryptophan which stimulates serotonin production -enhancing sleep.
Make bedrooms good to sleep in. Teens should have a room that can be completely darkened, a comfortable bed and a room that is quiet and safe.
Work out what helps you relax. Some teens find gentle stretching exercises such as yoga can help them wind down before sleep. Others use deep breathing slow breathing. If our teens keep remembering things they should have done or are trying to sort out a problem writing it down before they go to bed will stop their brain going over it again and again, and help them fall asleep more easily – knowing they can deal with it the next day. Progressive relaxation, where parts of the body are tensed and relaxed working up from the feet to the head helps some teens.
Identify what helps them drop off. Teens may find that chill-out music, a relaxation CD, natural sounds such as rolling waves, white noise, reading a book or even listening to an audio book in a darkened room can help them fall asleep once they are in bed.