The school teenage years are hugely developmental and they are tough enough without having to contend with a lack of sleep too. However, for many teenagers drifting off can be problem, with traditional school hours incompatible with their natural sleep cycles.
Teenagers are inherently compelled to go to sleep and get up later than adults, a phenomenon known as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Lack of sleep in teenagers can reduce their academic performance, make them irritable and even negatively affect their mental wellbeing.
So how can teenagers overcome this and achieve a restful night?
Sleep Advice for Teenagers
In order to improve sleep in teenagers, routine is key. They should begin by practising a controlled period of self-imposed sleep restriction.
Sleep should be delayed until a teenager feels tired, whether it’s a school night or at the weekend. In many cases this may be after midnight.
Within an hour of going to bed, teenagers should introduce a strict wind down routine, this may include various calming activities such as drawing, yoga and reading a light hearted book.
Once this routine becomes habitual, teenagers can then start gradually moving their bedtime back until it will allow them at least eight hours between hitting the sack and getting up for school.
If teenagers fail to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, they should rise and engage with their parents. It is important that their parents show support.
What to Avoid
There are a few things that should be avoided for teenagers who struggle to sleep. This includes stimulating activities within two hours of bedtime, such as homework, computer games and engrossing TV.
Caffeine should be avoided within six hours of going to bed, including energy drinks, coffee, tea and fizzy drinks.
As with most age groups, smart devices form an important part of life for teenagers. The devices are used to consume media and stay in touch with friends. However, it is important not to use the devices within two hours of going to bed.
They can be very stimulating and the light emitted from the screen can suppress the body’s natural production of melatonin. If possible, such devices should be removed from a teenager’s bedroom. Failing this, the bedroom should be split into sections, with one specifically for play and one specifically for sleep.
Embrace calming colours, light greens, yellows and blues.
Avoid stimulating colours, such as purples, golds and reds.
Teenagers should also be encouraged to keep their bedroom clean and tidy, thereby reducing distractions in the room. Blackout blinds are also a great option, while the temperature should ideally be between 16 and 18°C.
Many teenagers may be sleeping on an old mattress that was bought for them when they were young children. Apart from being worn out and too small, the mattress may no longer align to the body as it did when the teenager was younger and lighter.