Teens are perpetually tired. They drag themselves out of bed every morning for an early school day and often do homework or play on their phones until late into the night. And while many parents know they need more sleep — the grouchiness, the complaints, the naps on the couch — what should we do about it?
How serious is lack of sleep in teens?
Very. Only 1 in 10 teens gets the 8-10 hours os sleep that pediatricians reccomend. Some of the symptoms of feeling overly-fatigued include:
- Sleepiness during the day and trouble concentrating or paying attention
- Irritability, depression, moodiness, low self-confidence, lease frustration and other impulse control problems
- Falling grades and performing poorly in schools
- And most dangerous of all, drowsy driving
- The Cleveland Clinic explains, “Lack of sleep impairs many bodily functions including metabolism, the immune system and the cardiovascular system and thus affects health. Depression can occur. Your teen can have a difficult time coping with stress and emotion.”
So how can we help our teens get the sleep they need?
- Don’t let them drive if they haven’t slept enough. Withholding car keys may sound like the ultimate in hard ball, but you are teaching them how important sleep is and taking care of their safety and the safety of others. The National Sleep Foundation reports that, “When you are sleep deprived, you are as impaired as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is illegal for drivers in many states. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 crashes each year.”
- Urge them to plan to be in bed with lights out between 8-9 hours a day.
- Ensure that they go to bed at roughly the same time every night. It is difficult for teens to keep their weekend and weekday bedtimes the same, but experts suggest trying to keep them with 2 hours of each other.
- Teach them to monitor caffeine intake. Parents can help by teaching their teens which drinks have caffeine, how much and how it impacts sleep. Nicotine can also interfere with sleep.
- Tell them to avoid long daytime naps. After a long day at school teens often want to nap to recharge for the evening. Short naps are encouraged but too much sleeping the day makes it harder to get to sleep at night.
- Teach them to wind down towards bedtime. In the same way that warm baths and bedtime stories helped our little ones, teens should have a relaxing bedtime routine free of electronic devices. Parents can suggest listening to music, reading a book, herbal teas or even mediation practices.
- Open the curtains or turn on the lights first thing in the morning. Block out light in the hour before bed. Our sleep patterns are impacted by light.
- Exercising every day is a great habit for them to adopt, but not right before bedtime.
- Teach your kids to use their bed only for sleeping only as it increases the association between bed and sleeping. And, we all sleep best in a cool, dark and quiet room.
With all the things that they need to get accomplished in a day, teens are always going to have trouble getting the requisite amount of sleep. But as the adults in their lives, we can help them by teaching them about and modeling good sleep hygiene for them. It’s critically important.
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