Last updated on June 16th, 2022 at 12:07 am
Parents of teens may wonder if their kids will ever get back on a “normal” sleep schedule again. Your teen probably likes to stay up late, and given the chance, they may want to sleep as late possible. But with most school schedules, sleeping in isn’t an option.
That leads to tiredness, irritability, and trying to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends. Maybe you’re asking yourself “Should I let my teen sleep all day?”
Let’s discuss some ideas to help teens who struggle with getting the rest they need. The first step is understanding teen sleep habits. Why do so many teens get into the cycle of endless late nights and even later mornings? Let’s find out.
Why Teens Struggle With Sleep
It’s normal for teens to have a hard time sleeping well. As few as 15 percent are getting the sleep they need, 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 to 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 this shift in their sleep cycle.
But at the same time, teenagers are still expected to stick to an early schedule, and make it to school on time, which could be 8 a.m. or even 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, we can’t forget that 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.
7 Helpful Sleep Tips for Teenagers
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 that’s comfortable can make getting enough 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. Staying on a regular schedule can help teens sleep well. That means limiting naps, and not sleeping late into the day to “catch up” on sleep. If you let your teen sleep all day or sleep very late on the weekend, for example, this will disrupt their sleep schedule when the school week begins again.
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. That may mean that they take a warm bath, read, or listen to relaxing music–anything that’s conducive to creating a peaceful environment is helpful.
Limit screen time at night. While technology is part of life, 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. [Also read: 6 Tips for Setting Screen Time Boundaries]
Exercise caution with caffeine. Teens may drink coffee or soda 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 or caffeinated sodas after 3 p.m. each day.
Treat sleep disorders. Sometimes, teen sleep problems are more serious than just a shift in sleep cycles. Teens who deal with chronic trouble sleeping may need 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 rough in many ways, but offering support as your teen transitions to an adult sleep schedule 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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