Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time, but if your teen is struggling with sleep issues, it’s best to deal with them sooner rather than later.
How Much Sleep Does a Teen Need?
Teens are still growing, so they need more sleep than an adult. Nine to ten hours, and up to eleven hours, will be the norm. However, various lifestyle and other issues mean that teens seldom get as much sleep as they really need in order to maintain optimal health.
Teen Sleep Stealers
One of the main reasons teens don’t get enough sleep are the many aspects of their lives that get in the way of sleep, and/or require them to need high-quality, rejuvenating sleep - which can be difficult if they have sleep issues.
Common sleep stealers include:
* Too much schoolwork and studying
* Too much screen time on computers, smartphones, and other devices
* Too much game time
* Too much time on the phone talking or texting friends
* General stress
* Particular stressors, such as exams, bullying, relationship issues, worrying about getting into particular colleges, and so on
* Too many extracurricular activities, especially sports
* Too much TV / overly stimulating movies such as horror films or action films, especially before bed
* Media in the bedroom, such as a TV/DVD or streaming on a smartphone or tablet
* Too much exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime - it serves to energize the body
The Consequences of Poor Sleep
There a number of consequences related to poor sleep, some more severe than others. A lack of sleep can cause:
* Accidents and injuries
* Behavioral problems
* Mood disorders, such as stress, irritability, depression and anxiety
* Memory, concentration, and learning problems, often described as a "brain fog"
* Slower reaction times, such as when playing sports, or when adults are driving
* Overeating, binge eating
* Gaining weight, mainly due to the lack of sleep affecting the hormones that impact metabolism and weight loss
How Parents Can Help
It can be tough with teens, because they want to be independent and often view themselves as adults. They also often have erratic schedules, especially once they get to high school, where they might have free periods and varying start times in school. However, here are some ways you can help.
1. Establish a regular bedtime for yourself each night, in order to set a good example for your teen.
2. Establish a regular wake-up time seven days a week for everyone in the family.
3. Make time for a proper breakfast that includes protein. It will set everyone up for the day and help reduce food cravings and bad food choices.
4. Cut back on caffeine. Teens don’t drink much coffee and tea these days to get a caffeine buzz, but they do go for Red Bull, Monster and other energy drinks. Cutting caffeine can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headache, but can also improve quality of sleep long term.
5. Try to have a sit-down dinner as a family at least three nights a week. Both parents and teens have crazy schedules, but a sit-down dinner is a great chance to connect with one another and also helps signal the end of the work and school day.
6. Encourage your teen to have a relaxing bedtime routine, such as a shower, comfortable sweats, and some light reading.
7. Do not allow electronics in their bedroom.