What if the mood swings, the arguments, and the sleeping all day — are not typical behaviors for all teens? Popular culture would have us believe it’s so, but what if they are not? Or at least not to the extent we think? What if the “angst” that teens often display, is in fact, the symptoms of not enough sleep?
- Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep each night because their minds and bodies are growing quickly
- In adolescence, it is likely that your teen might start staying up later at night and waking up later in the morning.
- Sleep is important for supporting positive mental health.
- Simple routines and habits can help your child get the sleep they need for optimal health, well-being and learning.
Getting less than the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep can make it harder for teens to be motivated, to accomplish their goals, to regulate their emotions, and to succeed in school (National Sleep Foundation, 2020).
How Parents Can Help
- Regulate wake-up times on school days and non- school days to within two hours of each other – this helps to regulate your child’s “body clock”
- Encourage your teen that it’s a good idea to get out of bed when they wake up in the morning, rather than staying in bed and hitting the “snooze button”.
- Spend the hour before bedtime relaxing with activities like reading a book, listening to music, or having a warm shower.
- Naps that are too long or too close to bedtime can interfere with the quality of nighttime sleep.
- Encourage your teen to “unplug” from electronic devices for at least an hour before bed.
- Provide a bedside alarm clock and ask your child to charge their electronic devices away from their bedroom at night.
- Check your teen’s sleep space. A space that is cool, and dimly lit is important for good sleep quality.
Nutrition and exercise
- Ensure your teen eats a fulfilling evening meal at a reasonable time. Feeling too hungry or too full can make it harder to get to sleep.
- Encourage your teen to get as much natural daylight as possible, especially first thing in the morning. This helps the body to regulate the production of melatonin, which is a sleep hormone.
- Encourage your teen to avoid caffeine – in energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate and cola – especially in the late afternoon and evening.
- Encourage your teen to do some physical activity during the day, but remember to allow the body to shift into relaxation mode in the hour before “lights-out”.
Managing worries, fears and anxiety
- Try scheduling a “worry time” earlier in the day. This is a good opportunity to talk with your teen about their concerns, at a time that won’t interfere with their bedtime routine.
- Model for your teen how to write down, or journal, their anxious thoughts along with possible solutions to their worrries. Again, providing a time earlier in the day and away from bedtime is encouraged.
Encourage your teen to try some mindfulness exercises to calm their overly active mind before sleep (Raising Children Network, 2019).
“Healthy Sleep Tips.” National Sleep Foundation, SleepFoundation.org, www.sleepfoundation.org/.“Sleep and Teenagers: 12-18 Years.” Raising Children Network, 6 Sept. 2019, raisingchildren.net.au/.