Sleep is a critical component for optimal health no matter what age you are. Most of us could use more - or better-quality - sleep in general. However, for our teens who are still growing and developing both physically and mentally, sleep could be the difference between struggling or thriving. Our teens need more sleep not only for this critical part of their development as humans, but also because of the mental and physical stamina they require for functioning at school and managing their extracurricular activities. They are learning and absorbing so much during these years, and this rest is vital.
When we sleep, our bodies are given the time and opportunity to repair and regenerate. We need to sleep in order to repair any damage to our tissues, muscles and cells, and also to restore our energy. During sleep, our brain is better able to process the information that we learned throughout the day and to then store it into the appropriate parts of our memory, so we can recall it better later. Adequate sleep helps to keep our immune systems working properly, helps to regulate our hormones and keeps us functioning properly and efficiently when we are awake.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teens who do not get enough sleep are at a higher risk for obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health and problems with attention and behavior. It is recommended that teens between the ages of 13-18 years old should be sleeping between 8-10 hours each night.
With our busy and hectic schedules, it can be hard to be consistent with our sleep habits. So creating a better routine and a more supportive environment for proper, quality sleep can be very helpful.
Here are some tips for helping your teen improve their sleep:
1. Stick to a schedule.
Help your teen map out a realistic sleep schedule for themselves according to their extracurricular activities and the homework they also need to get done each day. Help them to stay on track with this schedule until it becomes a daily habit.
2. Limit their exposure to technology later in the evening.
Many studies have shown that technology and/or TV use later in the evenings can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm, otherwise known as our body’s sleep/wake clock that regulates when we should be awake versus asleep. Turn off all TVs, computers, tablets and phones an hour or two before bed.
3. Adopt a relaxing pre-bed routine.
Taking a hot shower or bath, diffusing some relaxing essential oils like lavender in the house, dimming the lights as bedtime approaches, doing some light yoga or stretching, or even encouraging reading for pleasure can all be some good ways to promote relaxation before bed.
4. Encourage physical activity.
Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, but it has also shown to be very helpful in improving sleep. If your teen doesn’t already have an exercise routine, help them to adopt one. Come up with some fun and easy ways they can get up and moving throughout the day.
5. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings.
Caffeine found in coffee, sodas, and certain sugary beverages and foods like chocolate should be avoided after mid-afternoon hours. It takes some time for caffeine to leave your body, so consuming these types of food and drink earlier in the day is a better option and will help you sleep better at night!
6. Try not to study in bed.
Creating clear boundaries for certain activities will help keep your teen focused and aligned. Try to only use your bed for sleeping. That way, once your teen hits the bed, they will know it’s time for sleep. If they need to study or work on homework, have them do so at the kitchen table or office instead.
Our teens have enough on their plate as it is. Adding sleep deprivation to all of it is a recipe for upset, mood swings, lack of focus and overall struggle. Help promote more sleep and better sleep for your teen to give them a solid foundation for their overall success.