Teens don’t get enough sleep, and in the U.S. the rate of sleep deprivation is reaching epidemic levels. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that fewer than 15% percent of teens are getting the required 8 to 8.5 hours per night.
The side effects are significant. Not only do tired teens perform worse at school and sports, they also have less ability to concentrate and are more likely to feel irritable and/or depressed.
Frighteningly, new research reveals that they’re also more likely to engage in high-risk activities. (Think driving without a seatbelt, not wearing a helmet while on a bike, etc).
Why Your Teen Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep
- Changing Bodies: As kids enter the teen years, they experience a shift in Circadian rhythms. Before puberty, many kids naturally get sleepy between 8 and 9pm. After puberty, the body’s clock shifts and kids may not feel ready for bed until 10 or 11pm.
- Changing Schedules: The teen years are also some of the busiest for kids. Social interests, academic demands, sports and family commitments can all compete for those precious hours of sleep.
- Early School Times: To make things even more challenging, many high schools have far earlier start times than elementary or middle school, creating a perfect storm of exhaustion for many teens.
- Digital Devices: The blue light emitted from digital devices is known to suppress the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone required for sleep. Teens who spend time on mobile devices before bed have a far harder time falling and staying asleep.
How Your Teen Can Get Enough Sleep
Can’t convince your kid’s high school to start at a later time? Not to worry. Parents can still play a pivotal role in helping their teens get the quantity and quality of sleep they need through simple, effective steps that can be taken at home.
Keep a Consistent Schedule
- Keep a Consistent Bedtime Routine. Sticking to a relaxing pre-bed routine helps teens unwind and gives their over-scheduled lives a needed break in preparation for sleep. As much as possible, teens should try to stay as close as possible to this schedule on weekends.
Limit Late Night Screen Use
- Avoid Late Night Digital Device Use: Teens are notorious late-night mobile device users. The National Sleep Foundation discovered that almost 90% of all teens have at least one digital device in their bedroom, with most technology use occurring bedtime. The impact of blue-light emitting devices on the number of hours of sleep as well as the quality of sleep is huge. And the more screen time exposure, the less quantity and quality of sleep for teens.
Get More Sun Early
- Get Outside in the Morning: Exposure to morning sunlight can significantly improve the quality of sleep. Even a half hour a day outside on an overcast day provides enough “phototherapy” to help keep your biological clock on track.
Turn Down the Brightness
- Dim Lights at Night: Avoid bright lights at night as much as possible, again to avoid interfering with your Circadian rhythm. This can include dimming lights and even installing non-blue light emitting light bulbs in bedrooms.
Don’t Binge Sleep
- Avoid the Mega Sleep Ins: Teens are known for staying asleep past breakfast, brunch and sometimes lunch on the weekend. And while parents may rejoice in the thought of making up for missed hours, the sleep bender does more harm than good to the body clock.
Ditch the “Pings”
- Nix the Check Ins: Teens should power down devices at least one hour before bed. And that includes games, social media, TV and computers.
Make Use of the Landline
- Call the Landline: Research reveals that one of the main reasons teens stay tethered to their devices at night is to “be there in case a friend is in need.” Parents can help calm teens by advising them to give the landline to friends for a true, after-hours emergency.
Minimize Blue Light Exposure
- Get in Night Mode: Must be on a device? Have teens include https://justgetflux.com on their devices. This nifty tool makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to time of day to better match Circadian rythyms. During the day, the screen is brighter and at night, it shifts into a warm glow.
- Black Out Light: Make sure your teen’s bedroom is dark at night. Blackout fabric on window treatments can help block out all light.
Turn Down the Temperature
- Make Sure the Bedroom Is Cool: Temperature can be critical to getting a good night’s sleep, around 65 degrees.
Keep the Number Down
- Numbers Game: Limit the number of devices your teen uses. Research shows that when kids use two or three devices each day were more likely to sleep for less than five hours when compared to those used just one gadget.
Limit Morning Madness
- Streamline the Morning Routine: Parents can’t change school start times, but they can help teens simplify the morning routine as much as humanly possible. That means doing things like the shower, picking clothes, packing lunch and doing homework the night before and extending the amount of morning sleep time as much as possible.
Skim Up on Sleep Stats
- Remind Teens of the Metabolic Benefits of Sleep: A Mayo Clinic study underscored yet another benefit of getting enough sleep. It turns out that sleep-deprived people eat more than an extra 500 calories per day when compared to their well-rested counterparts.
- Schedule Dinner Earlier: Heavy meals close to bedtime can often interrupt sleep.
Move It or Lose It
- Get a Move On: 9 out of 10 teens fails to get sufficient exercise, and that’s having a direct impact on exhaustion. Regular exercise has been proven to boost the amount of sleep as well as the quality of it. Teens should shoot for 60 minutes per day.
Watch the Sweets
- Ditch Certain Desserts: While caffeine and alcohol are proven to compromise sleep, so is chocolate, which should be avoided before bed.