Sleep Tips for Teenagers
We all hear that teenagers typically do not get enough sleep. Teens need 9 to 9 1⁄2 hours of sleep each night. The average teen gets only 7 to 7 1⁄4 hours per night.
What Prevents Teens From Getting The Sleep They Need?
- Sleep patterns – After puberty, there is a biological shift in a teen’s internal clock of about 2 hours. This means that a teen who used to fall asleep by 10 p.m. will now not be able to fall asleep until midnight. They will also not naturally wake up until 2 hours later in the morning.
- Early school start time – Many school districts have teens starting school as early as 7 a.m. This means teens may need to get up as early as 5 a.m. to get ready and get to school on time.
- A busy social life – Many teens have afterschool activities like sports, clubs, part-time jobs, or family chores, in addition to homework that keeps them up longerin the evening. And of course there is ongoing socializing, computer and cellphone use that fills those evening hours and keeps them up late.
What Happens When Teens Do Not Get Enough Sleep?
- Mood – Sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep) can cause teens to be moody, irritable and cranky. They may also have a difficult time managing their moods and be more easily frustrated and upset. Long term sleep deprivation can also cause mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
- Behavior – Teens who do not get enough sleep are more likely to engage in risk taking behaviors, such as drinking, using drugs or driving fast. They may also have problems communicating with their family and friends.
- Thinking – Lack of sleep can result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time and creativity, all of which are important for success in school and personal life.
- School performance – Teens who get less sleep are more likely to get poor grades in school, fall asleep in school, and have school absences and tardiness.
- Driving – Teens are at the highest risk of falling asleep while driving. Combined with other concerns about teen driving (slower reaction times, being easily distracted while driving) this can be very dangerous for all involved.
What Can You Do?
Pay attention to sleep patterns and schedules:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule – Teens should go to bed and wake up at about the same time every night. This includes non-school nights. There should not be more than an hour difference from one night to the next.
- Weekends – Teens can stay up a bit later on weekend nights but should not sleep in on weekends to “catch up” on sleep. It is NOT possible to “catch up” on sleep and makes it harder to get back on schedule the following night.
- Beds are for sleeping – Try to use your bed only for sleeping. Lying on a bed and doing other activities (e.g., watching TV, using your phone, tablet or computer) makes it hard for your brain to associate your bed with sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly physical environment:
- Make sure the bedroom is comfortable, cool, quiet and dark. Ideally, it should be 65 degrees as the body responds better to a cooler environment.
- Use the bed only for sleeping. Don’t study, read or listen to music on the bed.
- Keep all electronics out of the bedroom and turn off electronics 1 hour prior to sleep time.
- Stick to a pre-bedtime routine. About 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, try to “wind down.” Do relaxing, calming activities such as reading or listening to soothing music to help your mind slow down. Don’t watch TV, study, use the computer, talk or text on cell phone, exercise or do things that are “energizing.”
Here are some more important habits to follow:
- Exercise regularly during the daytime. Exercise may help you fall asleep and sleep more deeply.
- Spend time outside every day, particularly in the morning. Exposure to sunlight or bright lights helps keep your body’s internal clock on track.
- Eat regular meals and don’t go to bed hungry. Have a light snack or a cup of warm milk before bedtime, but don’t eat a full meal in the hour before bedtime.
- Before bedtime is a great time to relax by listening to soft, calming music or reading a book. Practice relaxation techniques like slow deep breathing and mindfulness exercises. Do not look at phones or devices.
- If a teen can’t fall asleep after 20-30 minutes then they should get out of bed and do something that isn’t too stimulating, such as read a boring book (e.g., textbook). Return to bed once feeling sleepy again. If they are still awake after 20-30 minutes, they can repeat the process and get out of bed for another 20 minutes before returning. Doing this prevents the bed from being associated with sleeplessness.
- Avoid activities that are excessively stimulating right before bedtime. This includes things like watching television, using a tablet, cellphone, or computer, and playing video games, as well as physical exercise. Avoid these activities if teen wakes up in middle of night. It is best to keep video games, televisions, or phones out of the bedroom and to limit their use at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Caffeine – Avoid eating or drinking anything with caffeine (chocolate, tea, energy drinks) any time after 9 a.m. Caffeine can cause nighttime awakenings and shallow sleep even if it doesn’t prevent one from falling asleep.
- Alcohol – Alcohol disrupts sleep and may cause you to wake up during the night. Avoid alcohol!
- Sleeping pills – Don’t use sleeping pills, or other over-the-counter sleep aids. These can be dangerous and your sleep problems may return when you stop taking them.