Most parents wonder whether they should enforce a proper bedtime for their teens, as they are concerned whether their teenager is getting enough sleep. They’re at that age where they are on the cusp of adulthood — exerting their independence — but they are still growing and their brains are still developing so they need more sleep than an adult. Unfortunately, studies show that most teens don’t get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of rest per night.
Let’s explore some of the reasons and effects poor sleep can have on your teenager.
They’re still growing
Although there are outward signs that your teen is growing and developing, some other changes may not be as noticeable as they progress toward adulthood. A lack of sleep can affect their emotions, their performance in school, their family life, and even their personality. Handling teenage mood swings will become quite a challenge for parents — should sleep deprivation prove a factor in the volatile behavior. Also, mental health issues like depression and anxiety have been linked to poor sleep habits — which also increase the risk of suicide. Believe it or not, lack of sleep can increase their risk for diabetes and heart problems. It also contributes to poor decision making and other risky behaviors.
Adequate rest will help your teen be more focused, improve their memory and analytical thinking, and spur creativity. Good sleep habits now will benefit them as they transition into adults and prepare to acquire job skills, take tests, live on a budget, and manage life’s pressures.
The numbers don’t lie
Research indicates that many teenagers are getting far less sleep than they need. For example, experts found that 73 percent of high school students do not get enough rest. In fact, some studies suggest that there is a global epidemic of sleep deprivation among teenagers. The problem seems to be most prevalent among females.
There also are physical reasons why your teen may not be getting the rest they need. Teens have different sleep-wake rhythms and release of melatonin (a natural hormone to prepare for sleep). That means their body’s circadian rhythm is reset, which causes teenagers to fall asleep later and wake up later. This rhythm change is linked to melatonin, which is released later at night for teens than it is for adults and kids.
Learning how to say “no”
Sometimes your teenager may simply be tired from too many activities that prevent them from getting enough sleep. The world they live in today is constantly bombarding them with peer pressure, social media demands, increased school pressures, and an array of extracurricular activities from sports to part-time jobs to church functions. Take a hard look at your teen’s daily schedule to see if it is realistic. If necessary, help them pare down their daily busyness to a more manageable load. This is a great opportunity to teach them about time management.
If none of the things we’ve mentioned is preventing your teen from getting enough sleep, it could be a medical issue. Some teenagers suffer from a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. This causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, which makes a person wake up repeatedly during the night. This can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and lethargy. Also, there are neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that cause sleep deprivation among teenagers.
How can teens get better sleep?
In order to make sure your teen is getting enough sleep to stay healthy and perform well, here are a few suggestions that can help.
Limit screens in the bedroom — Don’t allow your teenager to have a phone, tablet, TV, or even a computer in their bedroom at night when it’s time to sleep. The light from the screens on these devices definitely interfere with sleep. Plus, your child will be tempted to stay up late texting and interacting with friends on social media. Near bedtime, give them a 30-minute warning and let them say goodbye to their friends for the night. Then have them hand over their devices to you until morning.
Get rid of excess energy — Having some type of physical activity late in the afternoon can serve two purposes: It will improve your teen’s general health as well as get them tired before bed. Exercising during daylight can encourage healthy sleep patterns, too.
Reduce caffeine intake — Whether it’s coffee, soda, energy drinks, or tea, your teen shouldn’t consume anything with caffeine at least four hours before bed. In fact, their caffeine intake should really be monitored, if possible. Too much caffeine has an intense effect on their body and brain, causing headaches, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, sleep deprivation, and more. By the same token, advise them to limit their food intake prior to bedtime. Feeling stuffed can be uncomfortable and prevent a good night’s sleep.
Make their bedroom conducive to sleeping — Making sure your teen has a sleep-friendly bedroom can also aid in their getting enough rest at night. Their bedroom should be comfortable, quiet, and dark. The temperature should be no more than 75 degrees. Also, encourage them to use the bed only for sleeping, not a place to do homework, study, or listen to music.
Establish a routine — Lastly, it is important to schedule a good sleeping routine. A regular, consistent bedtime will drastically improve your teen’s sleep pattern as their body adapts to it. As a parent, you can encourage this by setting up some activities that will always lead to the scheduled bedtime hour.
There is no foolproof method for making sure your teen is getting the proper amount of sleep. And just like adults, the amount of sleep needed can vary from person to person. But hopefully, you can implement a few of our suggestions and wind up with a healthy, productive teenager.
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