Parents of teens may wonder if their children may ever sleep well again.. It feels like they might not, but the fact is, eventually, they will. But it’s probably going to be rough for a while.
Understanding teen sleep makes it easier to help teens get the rest they need — and stay sane as you live through what might feel like endless late nights and even later mornings.
Why Teens Struggle With Sleep
It’s normal for teens to have a hard time sleeping well. As few as 15 percent of teens sleep enough at night, so sleep deprivation is very common at this age. Why is that?
Some of it has to do with lifestyle, but a lot of it is biological. In the teen years, teens shift the a later sleep and wake cycle, as they are becoming adults on an adult schedule. So a child who would get tired around 8 or 9 p.m. might not get tired until 10 or 11 p.m. after they’ve had a shift in their sleep cycle.
But at the same time, teenagers are still expected to stick to an early schedule, making it to school on time, which could be 8 a.m. or earlier. That can put a squeeze on the amount of time a teen has to sleep, especially if they don’t start feeling sleepy until late at night.
And teens often lead busy lives. Social engagements, gaming, social media, homework, even a job may keep them up at night when they should be sleeping. And screen time can be stimulating enough that kids struggle to get to sleep on time.
Helping Teens Sleep Well
It’s not always easy helping teens get the sleep they need, but it is possible to offer effective support for teen sleep. These are some of the ways parents of teens can help with sleep health.
Offer a healthy sleep environment. Teens may have messy, chaotic bedrooms that aren’t particularly calming. Changing that can help. Encouraging teens to keep a clean room with calming design and colors, along with an appropriate mattress can help teens sleep in an environment that makes rest much easier.
Give them time to sleep. Sometimes, commitments and homework can be too much. Cut back whenever possible so they can prioritize sleep over other activities and focus on what’s most important.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Teen sleep can seem somewhat erratic, but that doesn’t help foster good sleep. Staying on a regular schedule can help teens sleep consistently well. That means limiting naps, and not sleeping late into the day to catch up on sleep. Sleeping in on the weekend, for example, can complicate sleep when the school week comes back around.
Encourage a healthy sleep routine. Just like a consistent sleep schedule can help, so can a regular sleep routine. Going through the same few steps before bed each night can help teens settle down to sleep and relax before bed.
Limit screen time at night. While technology can be helpful, it can keep teens up too late at night. It’s a good rule of thumb to stop screen time at least one hour before bed so that teens have a chance to settle down and reset before it’s time to sleep.
Exercise caution with caffeine. Teens may drink coffee for energy or in social settings, but caffeine can cause jitters and make it tough to sleep well. It’s a good idea to avoid coffee after 3 p.m. each day.
Treat sleep disorders. Sometimes, teen sleep is more serious than just a shift in sleep cycles. Teens who deal with chronic trouble sleeping should get treatment for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia.
Teen sleep struggles are common, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to deal with. The teenage years can be tough for sleep, but offering support and help with transitioning to an adult sleep schedule while still going to school can help.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.
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