It’s natural for teens to fall asleep late and wake up late. Based on research, adolescence is the time when the circadian rhythms and preferred sleep times shift to later. This conflicts with the general daily schedule that most teens maintain of waking up early for school, causing a mismatch which induces circadian misalignment and sleep loss. Some studies also indicate that teens need more hormones for growth, and growth hormones are made during sleep, so teens need to sleep longer for their physical wellbeing.
The problem with teens getting less sleep than what their body needs is how they feel when they are awake. Poor sleep will usually cause teens to be cranky, sad, moody, and sleep-deprived teens tend to be apathetic. Teens who get poor sleep have problems getting along at home and at school, and they often have poor grades. They are also more at risk for car accidents, making the problem of teens and sleep even more serious.
The irregular sleep-wake schedule that teens often maintain due to their lifestyle schedule of falling asleep and waking late on weekends then waking early during the weekdays can cause havoc in a teenager’s life. I try to get most teens I work with to stick to a schedule to eliminate sleep disruption as much as possible. Teens who stay up until the wee hours of morning on weekends have problems getting their bodies to fall asleep early on Sunday night so they can be fresh for school on Monday. Many teens claim to nod off in their first class, as they cannot wake up.
Parents can do a lot to help their kids create healthy sleep habits. They can start by creating a quiet bedroom with blackout shades in windows to help their teen sleep better. Make sure kids turn off computers and cell phones before they go to bed and have them turn any clocks with the face toward the wall, so they don’t check the time all night long. Also, one’s own bed should only be used for sleep and kids who hibernate in their rooms can have poor sleep. If a teen is playing video games, studying, eating and doing anything else on their bed, this confuses this connection. Parents should get their teens out of their bedrooms. This helps create the association between your bed and sleep.
If you notice that your teen has difficulty winding down at night, have them wear sunglasses in the afternoon and into the evening. Bright light is activating, so reducing this for a teen who is a poor sleeper is helpful. Alternately, your teen can use light to help them wake up in the morning, such as by opening the shades right away. Another method that is known to relax the body for bedtime is a hot bath or shower before bed to boost deep sleep. Then keep the room cool (about 68 F). One study showed that sleep happens when the body cools. Wakefulness occurs when the body temperature warms up.
Providing proper meals for your busy teens is very important, at night you can help them induce sleep by giving them high-carb snacks before bed. This makes you feel warm and sleepy. Try pretzels, cereal, graham crackers, fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice, vanilla wafers, saltines, popcorn, or toast with jam or jelly. You can also have your teens cut caffeine out for a few days to see if that helps. Many people find that chamomile and valerian herbal teas help them feel sleepy.
If you can get your teen to practice mindfulness and yoga, these will be great lifelong habits to make them healthy individuals and help them de-stress. If your teen is stressed, you can help them relax with soft music or by doing yoga with them right before bedtime. Aromatherapy is said to boost sleep as well, use night scents like orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender scents.
Most importantly get your teen into a rhythm that allows them to get the right hours of sleep that they need. As with adults, teens vary in the number of hours they need compared with their peers. One simple way to figure out how many hours of sleep your teen needs is to see what time they naturally go to bed and wake up during the weekend. Then calculate the number of hours they slept and aim for that number every night along with the above mentioned techniques.