Sleep is essential to support teenagers as they grow and go through important physical and mental changes. But many teens simply aren’t getting enough sleep. An Australian study has found that half of 16-17 year-olds and a quarter of 12-15 year-olds are not getting enough sleep, particularly on school nights. Read on for some helpful hints on how you can help equip your teenager for better sleep.
Why you should care about your teen’s sleep?
- Sleep benefits the brain, helps with memory retention, and analytical thought (source)
- Sleep can help boost creativity (source)
- Mental health disorders can also be linked to poor sleep (source)
- Sleep is also important for physical health and well being. It aids the immune system, regulates hormones and aids muscle and tissue recovery (source)
So what’s stopping teens from getting enough sleep?
It’s easy to blame smartphones and social media for teens to be sleep deprived (and yes, they do play a part!) But there’s also a disruptive biological influence, caused by changes in their circadian rhythm and melatonin production. Many teens simply do not feel tired until later in the evening and would most likely naturally sleep best going to bed at midnight and sleeping until 9am (source). Because of this early school start times and other early morning routines can affect the amount of sleep teenagers are able to get.
Full schedules with school, sports, social life and extracurricular activities also play a role with many young people staying up late to cram in homework or catch up with friends and sacrificing precious snooze time in the process.
Electronics and social media also contribute to teen sleep deprivation, the blue light emitted from devices keeps the brain wired and suppresses melatonin production (melatonin is that helpful hormone that helps us sleep!). Plus alerts from messages or feeling the need to be constantly online can keep teens up at night.
How can you help your teen sleep better?
It may seem like the odds are stacked against your teen, but there’s plenty of things you can do to help them sleep better.
- Start with helping them budget sleep into their daily schedule. It’s possible your teen’s timetable is too full, and they simply don’t feel that they have time for sleep. Consider cutting activities or allowing more time for homework earlier in the afternoon.
- Help create a consistent and relaxing evening routine, to help train the brain to know when it’s bedtime. We share several great tips on what to include in your bedtime routine here.
- Try and avoid caffeine later in the day, this includes energy drinks and soft drinks.
Just like we shared in our blog post on tips to sleeping better, getting exercise and sunshine during the day can be a big help in feeling sleepy when bedtime comes around.
- Give them somewhere besides their bed to relax and unwind. Research suggests that we sleep better when our beds are just left for sleeping. Help your teenager by providing a different relaxing place they can unwind that’s not their bed. Our Snug Pods are a great alternative and can also unfold into a spare bed for sleepovers.
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- Put away the electronics at least half an hour before bedtime. This probably won’t be a popular tip with your teen, but it can make a big difference to their sleep! Try letting them come up with a place they feel comfortable leaving their phone overnight, rather than feeling like it’s been confiscated from them. At the very least they should set their phones to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and ‘Night Shift’ to help aid the transition to sleep.
- Help your teenager find ways to relax and unwind in the evening, this could be listening to a mediation soundtrack, reading a book, or snuggling under a gentle weighted blanket. Our Hug Blankets come in a range of weights, including 2.2kg for children and young teens.
Help reset their body clock with a camping trip! This is a fun suggestion based on research that suggests a weekend camping trip can help ‘reset’ our internal body clock back into healthy sleep rhythms.
- Set up their bedroom for better sleep, we have a whole blog post about how to do this here. Start by assessing their mattress and pillows. Have they outgrown their childhood bed? Does your teen need a better pillow to support them as they grow? Is their mattress comfortable and supportive?
Note: This blog post is for informational purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. If you or your teen is experiencing serious or ongoing difficulties with sleep or have other underlying medical conditions, then it is important to talk to your doctor who can provide professional and personalised advice for your situation.
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