Sleep Tips for Teens with Sleep Problems
In our fast-paced lives, sleep is too often seen as a luxury. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sleep is a fundamental need that plays a pivotal role in cognitive function, mood, immunity, and overall health.1
For kids and teens, the stakes are even higher. According to the CDC, children and adolescents who do not get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior.2
Read on to find out how much sleep teenagers need and explore 10 tips to improve sleep quality and avoid long-term sleep problems.
Understanding the Teenage Sleep Cycle
Most young children start to wind down around eight or nine p.m., if not earlier. By the time morning arrives, they’ve hopefully rested well enough to tackle a new day feeling recharged.
But something shifts when kids reach adolescence. Along with the other expected changes associated with puberty, such as a deeper voice for boys and the start of the menstrual cycle for girls, teens also experience a change in their sleep cycle.
The natural shift in a teen’s circadian rhythm, or body clock, is known as “sleep phase delay.” It pushes a teen’s desire for sleep approximately two hours later.3 At first, it may look like the teen is experiencing insomnia, as they will find it challenging to fall asleep at their usual bedtime. When they finally do fall asleep, their physiological need for eight to 10 hours of sleep is typically interrupted when their morning alarm goes off signaling a new school day.
The Importance of Adequate Sleep for Teens
As a result of interrupted sleep, many teens start to experience the symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation, including grumpiness, poor academic performance, and inability to concentrate. Even more, sleep deprivation perpetuates a vicious circle. Poor sleep causes a teenager's brain to become overly active. And an overly active brain finds it harder to fall asleep. Some teens may not know that they’re making things worse by spending too much time on screens before bed, consuming caffeine or sugar too late in the day, and maybe giving in to peer pressure by staying up too late with friends.
Tips to Improve Quality of Sleep
Fortunately, you can aid your teenager’s sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene. This includes establishing a consistent sleep schedule, ensuring their bedroom is a sleep-friendly environment, limiting their screen time before bed, and much more.
Read on to explore 10 important sleep tips for teens.
1. Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Encourage your teen to follow a consistent sleep schedule by waking up at the same time every day and going to bed at the same time each day. Though it may seem unrelated, you should also try to have them eat their meals at the same times each day, too. Following a predictable sleep and mealtime schedule helps to balance their circadian rhythm.4
2. Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment
Make sure their sleeping environment is comfortable and conducive to rest. This includes a comfortable mattress and pillows, a dark and quiet room, and a comfortable room temperature. You should also remove all digital distractions from their bedrooms, including tablets, phones, and laptops.
3. Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Keeping screens out of your teen’s bedroom is one way to help protect their sleep quality, but you should also ensure they’re not using any screens in the house too close to bedtime. This is not just because social media and video games are arousing, but also because the blue light emitted from screens has been known to disrupt the circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin production.5
4. Place Emphasis on Eating a Balanced Diet
Following a balanced diet full of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables, helps your teen get the nutrients they need to remain healthy. A balanced diet can also help them sleep better. Studies show that a lack of key nutrients in one’s diet, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, is connected to sleep problems.6 Top that with the stimulating effects of sugar, and you have a recipe for disaster.
5. Get Regular Physical Activity
Regular exercise helps regulate sleep patterns. Research indicates that moderate exercise training over the course of several weeks can improve sleep quality and duration for adolescents.7 Encourage your teen to engage in physical activity during the day, but avoid intense exercise too close to bedtime.
6. Implement Stress-Reducing Strategies
Stress and anxiety are notorious for wrecking sleep. Teach your teen some stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation to help them relax and self-regulate when stress and anxiety show up. Keep in mind that some teens may experience challenges when attempting to practice mindfulness, especially those who are neurodiverse or have attention issues. If this is the case with your teen, encourage them to start slowly, maybe meditating for just one minute a day until they adjust to the practice.
7. Avoid Caffeine and Stimulants
Fruit juices, sodas, chocolate, and other sweet treats can make it harder for your teen to sleep when used in excess or consumed too late in the day. Along with encouraging them to add healthy foods to their diet, help them cut back on food and drinks laden with sugar and caffeine. One way to do this seamlessly is to find suitable replacements for their usual snacks. This may include sparkling water in place of soda, or some low fat yogurt or nuts instead of a post-dinner sugary dessert.
8. Perform a Relaxing Ritual
Following a relaxing ritual before bed can help an energetic teen wind down and prepare the body for rest. Allow your teen to be as creative as they want with their routine, so long as it is calming. This may include having a hot bath before bed, listening to some soft music, writing in a journal, or even practicing some gentle yoga.
9. Use Bed Only for Sleeping
When your teen spends all their time in bed–studying, listening to music, chatting with friends, scrolling through social media–their brain won’t always want to wind down in a place that can be so engaging. Motivate your teen to see their bed as a sacred place for sleep so that when their body settles in for the night, their brain knows what it's supposed to do.
10. Get Enough Sunlight
When your teen gets up for the day, encourage them to open their curtains and let the sunlight in. Getting exposure to sunlight in the morning can help them sleep well at night because it helps to reset their circadian rhythm.8 This is also why too much light in the evening (even artificial light from screens) is not advised, as it can cue the body to stay alert and awake.
How Much Sleep do Teenagers Need?
According to the CDC, about seven out of 10 (72.7%) of surveyed kids in the U.S. did not get enough sleep on school nights. If your teen is between the ages of 13 and 18, they should be getting eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Some signs your teen is not getting enough sleep include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty waking in the morning
- Daytime naps
- Poor academic performance
- Frequent accidents
- Increased anxiety
- Memory issues
- Excessive sleeping on weekends
Additional Ways to Increase Sleep in Teens
Another crucial way to help your teen sleep well is to minimize their stress about it. The more they worry about not sleeping, the more difficult it will be to fall asleep. Suggest that they practice some positive sleep affirmations like, “Sleep is easy and effortless,” or “I will sleep when I’m tired,” or “I will sleep deeply tonight” throughout the day to replace any dread or anxiety about staring at the ceiling all night.
If you think your teen is having trouble with sleep because of a bigger issue with anxiety, stress, or a condition like ADHD, it’s important you address this root cause. In addition to implementing the tips above, like following a healthy diet, controlling their screen time, and practicing mindfulness, you may also want to consider a homeopathic medication. Instead of turning to melatonin first, which may cause uncomfortable side effects or lead to dependency, consider trying non-prescription Brillia. Clinically validated to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, inattention, and hyperactivity, Brillia gently and impactfully promotes calmness and clarity without affecting any other systems in the body or causing any undesirable side effects and is suitable for kids aged five to 18.
Brillia is not a sleep aid. It will not induce drowsiness in your teen. But when taken consistently, it can help balance the brain chemicals that instigate the anxiety and irritability keeping them up at night.
Seeking Professional Guidance for Sleep Disorders
If your teen continues to struggle with sleep despite implementing these tips, it may be a sign of a sleep disorder. In such cases, it's essential to seek professional guidance from a healthcare provider or sleep specialist to address the issue and ensure your teen is getting the care they need.
Understanding the unique sleep patterns and circadian rhythms of teens is crucial for addressing their specific sleep needs and challenges. By recognizing the importance of adequate sleep, implementing healthy sleep habits, and seeking professional guidance when necessary, you can help your teen navigate the challenges of adolescence with the energy and focus they need to thrive.
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