How often do we hear teens brag about how they stayed up late playing online video games with groups of friends or pulling a Netflix all-nighter? If they could, most teens would choose to stay up past midnight and sleep past noon.
What’s up with teen sleep patterns?
Sleeping patterns during puberty can partly be explained by the natural change in a teen’s circadian rhythms called “sleep phase delay.” The need to sleep is delayed for about two hours, so teens are awake later and sleep in longer. This lag increases when teens are exposed to the “blue light” of electronic screens late at night – this sends a message to the brain that it’s not nighttime yet. The signal to the brain decreases the production of melatonin and keeps teens from feeling tired.
Teens need an average of nine hours of sleep a night.
Sleep supports growth and development, and helps prevent health issues like anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. A lack of sleep can lead to poor concentration and coordination which can lead to problems with grades and unsafe driving.
Help set your teen up for success!
Your teen will likely put the need for a good night’s sleep at the end of their priority list, after homework, jobs, extracurricular and social activities. Help them learn to make better decisions about time management, prevent over scheduling and balance the demands on their time.
Follow these eight tips with your teen to get a good night’s sleep:
1. Create a quiet, cool and relaxing bedroom. Consider blackout curtains or a white noise machine to help calm the senses. Soothing scents such as lavender can help people fall asleep.
2. Avoid caffeine within five hours of bedtime.
3. Skip activities that might excite their senses at least one hour before bedtime like computer games, action movies and social media.
4. Stop watching television and using the phone or computer for at least one hour before bedtime (it’s best to keep TVs and mobile devices out of the bedroom). Finish homework that needs to be done with a computer earlier in the evening.
5. Plan ahead: get organized the night before so your teen can sleep in a little longer and not be rushed in the morning. They should load up their backpack, make a lunch and set out clothes for the next day.
6. Create a bedtime routine that has calming activities like a warm bath or shower, listening to an audiobook or soft music, reading or journaling. Carrying out these activities in the same order every night makes the brain recognize a pattern to sleep.
7. On weekends teens may want to stay up later but they should not wake up more than two hours after the time they would normally do on weekdays. If possible they should go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day to train their brain to recognize sleep and wake times.
8. If your teen wants to take a nap, keep it under an hour. Any longer and they will be more likely to stay awake later at night.