As a parent, you’ve had your fair share of all-nighters, and you know how awful it is to go through a day running on only three or four hours of sleep. You’re grumpy, feel queasy, and nothing at all seems as important as finding your way back to bed to catch up on some much-needed Zs. While this is by no means healthy, at least your brain is developed enough to afford a few sleepless nights. Your teen, however, is a different story.
Teenage brains are at a critical point in their development, and they need all the resources and rest they can get. In fact, studies have proven the average teenager needs a minimum of eight hours per night to feel well rested, and closer to ten hours each night for their brain to be running on all cylinders. If your teen has trouble falling asleep, it will have critical consequences. They might start earning lower grades, become depressed and anxious, and exhibit problematic behaviors. To avoid this, it’s crucial for your teen to be getting the rest they desperately need! It can be tough to know where to start, but here’s the recipe for a well-rested teen.
Keep them Active
Even if your teen seems lethargic, it’s important to keep them mentally and physically occupied throughout the day. You don’t have much control over this while they’re at school, but you can do your part by packing healthy lunches filled with foods that give your teen energy and stay focused. You can also sign them up for extracurricular activities that keep them thinking and moving once school is over. When they get home, help them occupy their time by assisting with homework or giving them chores to complete. Your teen might be reluctant, but keeping them occupied at a good pace will help form positive work habits going forward and make them more ready for rest!
It’s important to find a balance; you don’t want to overwork your teen, but you need them to get enough energy out during the day so they feel tired and ready to sleep once bedtime hits!
Sleep needs to be a priority in your teen’s life the same way their schoolwork and friendships are. Without getting the proper amount of sleep, your teen is only cheating themselves out of vital moments of rest that will help them in the long run. Thus, getting a good night’s sleep shouldn’t be an optional part of the day. If you can, try explaining to your teen how taking away vital hours of rest is like skipping a meal or missing a major assignment. It’s simply not okay. By reinforcing the idea that sleep is important, you can help your teen with their time management skills by completing their assignments and commitments before it cuts into their sleep. After all, staying up all night studying for a test doesn’t actually help very much!
Create a Bedtime List
Routine plays an important role in getting our minds and bodies ready for bed. Partner up with your teen to create a set of tasks to do in the hour leading up to bedtime. If your teen does the same things every night before going to sleep, their body will adjust accordingly and know it’s time to begin shutting down. Brewing a caffeine-free tea, deciding on a few good teen books to read before bed, and stretching are all relaxing things to do before bed that will prime your teen’s brain to start slowing down. These kinds of pre-bed activities are surprisingly helpful when it comes to winding down at the end of the day and can really help your teen feel more well-rested and ready to sleep.
Cut Screen Time
This is one of the most important parts of helping your teen prepare for bed on time. The blue light from phone, tablet, and laptop screens inhibits the releases of melatonin. For those who don’t know, melatonin is the chemical responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. When melatonin is released, we get sleepy. When it isn’t, we stay alert. Basically, the light from screens tricks our brain into thinking it’s still light out, and it doesn’t release the proper amount of melatonin, keeping us awake. Teenagers spend a lot of time on their phones, but it’s key for you to shut off the screens up to an hour before bedtime. Otherwise, your teen won’t be able to fall asleep, no matter what you do!
There are also blue light filters you can put on phones as well as melatonin supplements you can get for your teen. Still, I recommend disallowing screen time leading up to bed and sticking to other pre-bed activities.
Have a Good Night!
Sleep is a tricky beast to tackle, and even with the most strict bedtime routine, it’s likely there will be some restless nights. Still, it’s crucial that your teen understands the importance of a good night’s sleep and does everything they can to make sure they’re getting one each and every night.