Wendy P. Jones, Licensed Educational Psychologist
Most of us can say we could use a little more sleep, but adolescents are famous for being sleep deprived! As preteens and teens continue to grow, both physically and emotionally, sleep becomes even more important. However, sleep is often the factor that is sacrificed most in order to fit in all of their daily demands or activities.
According to the National Sleep Foundation www.sleepfoundation.org, getting enough is so important for teenagers’ academic success that more and more schools across the United States are implementing later start times to accommodate this need. Sleep is as important as the air we breathe, and the water and food we consume. A sufficient amount even helps us manage stress better. Bonus!
How much is enough? On average, teens typically get between 7 and 7 ¼ hours of sleep per night. In general, teens need between 8-10 hours per night, but due to the way teens’ bodies work, many can’t fall asleep before 11:00 pm. Add in activities, homework, projects and early school start times and we have a generation of overtired adolescents trying to keep up with their demands. Many are not successful. Some are, but often at a cost. There are ways to help.
- Consequences of not enough sleep: Limits the ability to focus, listen, solve problems and learn; causes difficulty remembering important information; contributes to acne; negatively impacts our frustration tolerance, patience and behavior such as yelling at friends, family or teachers; triggers eating unhealthy food which leads to weight gain; may increase effects of caffeine and nicotine; heightens effects of alcohol; contributes to illness and traffic accidents.
- Solutions to getting enough sleep: To get enough, it needs to be a priority. Sometimes activities and demands must be adjusted or eliminated to keep teens at their healthiest, happiest, and most productive.
- Good sleep cannot be replaced by pills, energy drinks or vitamins.
- Avoid caffeine, chocolate and soda late in the day
- Make the bedroom a sleep-friendly environment.
- Homework should be completed at a desk or table, not in bed.
- Keep the room dark, quiet and at a comfortably cool temperature when sleeping.
- Natural light from open curtains (when seasonally available) in the morning tells your teen’s body it’s time to wake up.
- Avoid eating, drinking or exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
- Maintain good organizational strategies so less time before bed is spent finding assignments or getting ready for the next day.
- Establish consistent sleeping and waking schedules all week long, including weekends.
- Aligning sleep with the body’s natural rhythms helps us feel more alert.
- Avoid TV, phone and computer within an hour before bed.
- A calming bedtime routine to helps us to fall and stay asleep easier.
- All devices turned off and placed out of reach.
- Read a book or magazine (not on a tablet or other electronic device).
- Listen to soft, calming music.
- Warm shower (depending on the person – while it may help some fall asleep, a morning shower may help others wake up.)
- Use of natural sleep supports like high quality lavender and related essential oils.
- Calm racing thoughts and “mental chatter”.
- Keep a pen and paper by the bed. Writing down thoughts allows us to remember what is needed, so we won’t worry about it during the night, which can disrupt sleep.
To make room for enough Zs, sometimes other activities need to be re-prioritized or given up while good sleep patterns are reestablished. Every person is different, so each teen will have to find what works best for him or her. Getting enough sleep is a good habit for the whole family and will likely result in happier, more peaceful and more productive family, peer and school interactions. Sleep well!