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Healthier sleep habits for teens

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Pediatrics, Sleep Medicine Author: Andrew Maloney,MD

Today’s teens are busier than ever with homework, sports, extracurricular activities, jobs, volunteering and time with family and friends. The increasing pressure to excel and succeed and the daily demands of this stage of life can lead teens to skimp on sleep. Teens also experience a natural change in their circadian rhythms so that they don’t feel tired until later at night.

Sleep is essential to emotional, physical, mental and social health. Sleep improves behavior, attention span, decision-making and academic performance. If your teen drives, sleep is also vital to staying safe on the road.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teens get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, but the National Sleep Foundation estimates that 85 percent of teens sleep less than 8 ½ hours a night. Try the following tips to help your teen get more rest.

How Much Are Teens Sleeping?

Girls

  • 44% - 5 to 6 hours
  • 49% - 7 to 8 hours
  • 8% - 9 hours or more

Boys

  • 37% - 5 to 6 hours
  • 55% - 7 to 8 hours
  • 9% - 9 hours or more

Source: CDC, 2014 (Percentages are rounded up, which is why they total more than 100.)

  • Monitor your teen’s habits and encourage necessary changes to improve health. Keep a mental log of when your teen goes to sleep and wakes up. Do you notice changes based on the amount of sleep they get? Is your teen spending their night hours texting, Snapchatting, Instagramming and Internet surfing? Is your child eating healthy or consuming caffeine late in the day?
  • Talk to your teen about the importance of sleep. After noting general patterns in your teen’s sleep habits, talk with them about changes that will help them feel better and more alert each day. Tell your teen that you care about them and explain why sleep is necessary for their health, well-being and future. Ask your teen how they might improve their sleep habits and what might be getting in the way of them getting the proper amount of sleep.
  • Help your teen create a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day is important to quality sleep and making sure teens get enough sleep. It can be tempting to stay up late and sleep all morning on the weekends, but this will throw off a teen’s biological clock and continue a cycle of poor and too little sleep.
  • Limit exercise in the few hours before bedtime. While physical activity during the day can help you fall asleep easier, it is best for teens to avoid exercise in the few hours before they go to sleep. Exercise can boost the body temperature and stimulate the mind and body, which interferes with falling asleep.
  • Set screen time limits. It is no surprise that the lights of electronics and mental stimulation of checking portable devices makes winding down difficult. Teens need time for their brains to rest. Consider setting a curfew for devices. Set a time that devices need to be turned in to parents or plugged into a central charging station in the kitchen or parents’ bedroom.
  • Set a positive example. Model healthy sleep habits for your children. Get the proper amount of rest and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. If you nag and lecture your teen about sleep, but don’t follow your own advice, your encouragement will fall on deaf ears.