Teenagers can find it difficult to get a full night’s sleep. Your teenager’s growing independence and ability to socialise can interfere as well as hormonal changes.
14 tips to help your teenager sleep well
1. Understand the importance of teenagers getting a good nights’ sleep
Academic ability, memory and sports performance are all linked to sleep, as well as the ability to sort out problems and maintaining a better mood. It is good to talk to your teenager about the benefits of sleep and how they can plan to have eight or nine hours’ sleep every school night.
2. Have a good routine.
If teenagers plan to do the same things before bed each night it signals to their bodies that they are preparing for sleep. This can include a warm shower or bath, brushing teeth, changing into nightclothes and reading.
3. Have a regular sleep pattern.
It is good if teens can go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time every day (including weekends). The body then adapts more readily to the circadian rhythm of their sleep and wake cycle. This means that when they go to bed they are much more able to fall asleep.
If your teenager needs to catch up on sleep at the weekend, make sure that they wake no later than one hour after their normal waking time. This will avoid disrupting their normal sleep-wake cycle. An early afternoon nap (if needed) is better than a lie-in till noon.
4. Help your teenager get enough exercise:
Sleep is sometimes difficult when a teen has done no exercise during the day. 30-60 minutes of exercise can help –particularly when done in the early afternoon. This could include swimming, jogging, going to the gym, tennis, a team sport or long walk.
5. Encourage teenagers to talk through problems:
Teenagers are under a huge amount of pressure –to look their best, to fit in socially, to perform well academically, and to deal with the myriad of problems that come with growing up and becoming independent.
As a parent, it is important to maintain a good relationship. So your teenager can talk through problems and work out their own solutions to help them to sleep when they are stressed.
6. Avoid caffeine late in the day
Avoid caffeine where possible (in tea, coffee and cola) in the afternoon and evening, as it interferes with the ability to drop off to sleep and fall into a deep sleep.
7. Avoid screens for 30 minutes to an hour before going to bed.
The blue light from electronic devices, Netflix and video games inhibits the melatonin production in the body. Melatonin is the hormone that signals sleep and calms the brain, ready for sleep. Too little melatonin makes it difficult to drop off.
8. Remove all screens from the bedroom
Remove TV’s from the bedroom and if possible laptops and devices and computers. Not only will they affect your teen’s sleep, but family interaction and family mealtimes as well. A teen who is talking with you regularly is more likely to ask for advice and listen to you if you have a good relationship with them.
9. Limit Activities in the 12 hours before school starts
If you can, try to encourage your teen to keep the 12 hours before the school start time, free of activities. This leaves them free to wind down and sleep in those 12 hours. Many teens feel that they need to socialise, do numerous activities and work part-time to be ‘well rounded’. Sometimes less is more! The need for relaxation needs to be taken seriously if you are to prevent burn-out, depression or worse in your teenager.
10. Help with time management.
Teens often don’t mean to go to bed as late as they do. However, they often get distracted (with Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, messaging friends, Netflix etc.) and don’t plan ahead to complete assignments/homework. The result is that teenagers often stay up late to finish their work.
Help your teen establish a regular habit of starting homework in the early evening and calculating the time needed for each piece of work. This will reduce the chances that they have to work late into the night.
11. Eat dinner earlier.
If teens are in the habit of eating a big meal just before bed, their grinding digestive system will make it difficult to fall asleep. Too much food or too little food before bed will affect sleep. A small wholegrain cereal or a slice of wholegrain toast is a good snack if your teenager is hungry just before sleep. A glass of warm milk also contains tryptophan which stimulates serotonin production – enhancing sleep.
12. Make their bedrooms suitable for sleep
Teens should have a room that can be completely darkened, a comfortable bed and a room that is quiet and safe.
13. Find what helps your teenager relax.
Some teens find gentle stretching exercises such as yoga can help them wind down before sleep. Others use deep breathing slow breathing.
Get your teenager to write down any problems that keep them awake. Or jot down something they need to do the next day. Writing it down will stop their brain going over it again and again. It will help them fall asleep more easily, knowing they can deal with it the next day.
Progressive relaxation, where parts of the body are tensed and relaxed working up from the feet to the head may help your teenager relax.
14. Identify what helps them drop off.
Teens may find that chill-out music, a relaxation CD, natural sounds such as rolling waves, white noise, reading a book can help them feel sleep. Alternatively listening to an audiobook in a darkened room can help them fall asleep once they are in bed.