According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the average teenager needs around 10 hours of sleep per night, yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of only 7.5 hours a night. We all know that teens can be a bit crabby, short tempered and unreasonable. But add chronic sleep deprivation and your ornery teenager can be down right unbearable. In addition, sleep deprivation in teens has been linked to poor school performance, depression and poor weight control. So it is as important as ever that your teen get a reasonable amount of sleep on a daily basis. This can be hard to achieve given their busy social schedule, heavy homework load, and after school activities. Mom and Dad: this is why it is important that you take an active role in your teenagers’ sleep habits.
Develop A Bedtime Routine
Developing a bedtime routine for your teen can be tricky, because it is very likely you are tucked snuggly in bed and sound asleep before your teen is ready to turn in. Nevertheless, teens should have a routine that occurs at roughly the same time each night and starts 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
1. Start by turning off all screens. Whether it is the computer, TV or cell phone, we know that screens keep the brain awake. Several studies have shown that screen time just before bed inhibits one’s ability to fall asleep and reduces the quality of sleep. Be sure to check call and text activity on your teen’s cell phone as many teens will text late in to the night. Set a “screen curfew” and stick to it even when it is difficult.
2. Ease the transition. Showering, light reading, listening to music, and other quiet activities provide a good transition. These things help the brain wind down and fall asleep more easily and quickly.
3. Avoid caffeine. This may be obvious to you and me, but it is certainly not obvious to most teenagers. Any caffeine after about noon can make it difficult to fall asleep in the evening. Remember that many soft drinks and just about anything you get at Starbucks is caffeinated.
What About Weekends?
Weekends can be a good time to let your teen catch up on their sleep. However, this should be achieved by going to bed at a reasonable time and sleeping in a little, but not excessively. Teens who commonly go to bed excessively late (2 or 3am) and are sleeping in excessively (to 12-1pm) on the weekend are creating a cycle for themselves which will make it near impossible for them to get to bed at a reasonable hour on Sunday night, thereby guaranteeing your teenager will start the week off sleep deprived. So while it is okay to loosen the reigns a little on the weekends, you still need to enforce a “lights out” policy at night and an “up an at ‘em” policy in the morning. My weekend rule of thumb is that a teenager should go to bed no later than 11pm (maybe midnight) and should not sleep in past 10am.
What About The Hard To Arouse Teen?
If your teenager is particularly difficult to rouse in the morning on weekends or weekdays, try this trick: Open the bedroom blinds about 30-60 minutes prior to when you would like them to wake up. The exposure to ambient daylight is an important trigger to the hormones that help wake up the mind and body. This can help get your teen to wake up when it is time.
In many ways, being a teenager is like being a toddler. They can be simultaneously unbearable and loving. They want their independence but still need your help with so many things. And they need their sleep. So, while this issue can be easy to overlook, it is important that you routinely monitor and actively regulate this aspect of their life.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Does your teen have sleep issues?
What strategies have you tried to improve his / her quantity and quality of sleep, while maintaining a good balance in his or her waking life?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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LOS GATOS TEEN THERAPY CAN HELP!
Would you like additional guidance in this area? Los Gatos Teen Therapy provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.