Teens and Zzzzzs

Do you remember the first time your child slept through the night? Who knew eight hours of sleep could feel like such a luxury? When our children are little, sleepless nights are inevitable. Then the teenage years hit and we are dealing with a whole new set of sleep issues. Now, instead of wondering how early they will wake up, and if we are going to be getting any sleep at all, we start to wonder if we should wake them up before noon.

Most teenagers love to sleep, but how much sleep do they really need? Why do they sleep so much? And how can we encourage good sleep hygiene for our teens?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended teenagers aged 13-18 years should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours. With school, extracurricular activities, work, homework, a social life and early school arrival times, it isn’t always easy for teens to get the recommended amount of sleep per night. In addition, teens experience a natural shift in circadian rhythm that makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 pm. This means they are natural night owls. All of these things combined can make hitting the 8-10 hour mark pretty challenging.

So what do you do when you know your teen needs sleep, but it just doesn’t seem to fit their schedule? You can start by encouraging healthy sleep habits.

Limit screen time before bed.
The light from screens is thought to be disruptive to sleep, and may make it difficult for your teen to wind down.

Remove devices from the room.
It’s a good idea to remove the device from the room at night. Removing the device will limit the temptation to check notifications, which can be disruptive to sleep. Also, checking social media before bed has the potential to lead to some unwanted negative emotions that may make it harder to fall asleep.

Avoid caffeine and energy drinks.
Some caffeine early in the day is fine, but consider limiting any caffeinated beverages in the afternoon, and especially the evening.

Create a consistent bedtime routine.
Due to work schedules and other activities, your teen may be arriving home at different times in the evening. They may not be able to get to bed at the same time every night, but try to have a routine that helps them to relax and get ready to sleep. Sometimes a hot bath or a shower helps. Consider using soothing scents like lavender in the bath or on their pillow. You also want to be sure to keep the room cool, dark and quiet.

Encourage naps.
If your teen’s schedule allows it, encourage them to take a 20-30 minute power nap. A little nap goes a long way, even for the big kids.

Evaluate the schedule.
If your teen is really struggling to consistently get the sleep he or she needs, consider reevaluating their schedule. Sit down with them and talk about what can possibly go. Can they work day shifts on the weekend? Is there an activity they can give up for a while? Also, teens are incredibly social and sometimes need to be reminded they can’t do things with their friends all of the time. Boundaries are good for our big kids, too.

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