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Why It's Important to Teach Teens Good Sleep Habits

In the blink of an eye it seems, our babies have become teenagers. You would think that teenagers would be capable of sleeping through the night. Instead, it seems they were only capable of sleeping through the day! Don't you wish there was a book called "Getting Your Teen to Sleep at Night" or perhaps "7 Highly Effective Sleep Habits of Healthy Teens?" There just HAS to be a way to help your teenager sleep better AND teach them good sleep habits.

In the medical field, choosing healthy sleep is called "sleep hygiene" but who cares what it's called? We just want our teenagers to get a good amount of sleep so they can function like a human being during the day!

Parents, here is the problem. Teens actually need more sleep than they did when they were younger. Scientific research shows that many teens don't get enough sleep, but for normal growth and development in their minds and bodies, many doctors recommend that teens get 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Not only do teens not get enough sleep, those same teens will fall asleep later than they should and wake up earlier to start their day. This is called the "sleep-phase delay". As teens shift their biological clock back, they are actually suffering from partial sleep deprivation. And in our society, the situation is made much worse with our excessively busy schedules. You can read more about the delayed sleep-phase here.

The basic premise eludes the average teen. They NEED sleep, like we all do. Humans can't think, work, function, or remain healthy without it.  

Below, you'll find a brief overview of how to teach teenagers to sleep so they can function at home and in their education.

12 Reasons Why Good Sleep Habits are Important 

  1. Lack of sleep impairs concentration, memory, and creativity
  2. Lack of sleep makes it dangerous to drive
  3. Lack of sleep is functionally similar to being drunk
  4. Lack of sleep impairs physical function
  5. Lack of sleep affects your immune system and makes people get sick more often
  6. Lack of sleep causes depression
  7. Lack of sleep impairs heart health
  8. Lack of sleep limits the ability to control emotions
  9. Lack of sleep increases stress
  10. Lack of sleep decreases our decision-making ability
  11. Lack of sleep reduces athletic performance
  12. And, especially for children and teens, Lack of sleep decreases school performance

10 Symptoms That Show You Need More Sleep 

  1. If it's hard for your student to wake up
  2. If your student is feeling sad or depressed
  3. If your student is moody or irritable (or they feel moody or irritable)
  4. If your student has difficulty focusing
  5. If your student can't concentrate on school
  6. If your student has failing grades
  7. If your student is falling asleep during the day
  8. If your student has fatigue or daytime sleepiness
  9. If your student keeps saying "I feel tired" during the day
  10. If your student gets less than 8 hours of sleep at night

20 Tips to Developing a Sleep Routine 

  1. Don't eat heavy meals before bed
  2. Don't do strenuous exercise before bed
  3. Cut out caffeine after 2:00 pm (including chocolate or soda)
  4. No energy drinks - ever
  5. Don't take depressants (like alcohol) at all
  6. Don't subject yourself to bright lights
  7. Don't allow cell phones in bedrooms
  8. Keep  TV and Technology out of bedrooms
  9. Establish a regular time to go to bed
  10. Establish a regular time to wake up
  11. Develop "winding down" habits
  12. Keep the bedroom cool
  13. Keep the bedroom dark, use a sleep mask if necessary
  14. Close drapes or blinds at night
  15. Keep the bedroom quiet, using ear plugs if necessary
  16. Keep the bedroom for sleeping and relaxation only
  17. Avoid having upsetting talks at bedtime
  18. Avoid watching upsetting or scary shows before bed
  19. Discuss medications with your doctor, as some cause sleepiness
  20. Maintain a healthy diet and limit sweets to avoid a sugar rush and candy-crash

Helpful "Winding Down" Sleep Habits

Come up with "Winding down" habits that help you slow down and get ready to go to bed is a great way to develop good sleep habits. Helping our bodies wind down and get ready for sleep will allow your teen to fall asleep easier. They may not be easy to come up with, because often teens want to lay in bed and look at their phone in order to wind down and catch up with the day. But, if you can encourage them to do that while they are sitting in the living room, and then create good sleep habits that will help them wind down for the night, falling asleep will be easier, and likely faster. These will signal to your body that it's time to sleep, helping you associate bed with sleep

  1. Meditate
  2. Pray
  3. Read (not electronically)
  4. Shower
  5. Take a bath
  6. Play calming quiet music
  7. Shut windows and curtains
  8. No technology screens of any kind near bedtime
  9. Identify one place and time to deposit all technology before bed 

Once you've trained your body to fall asleep, you'll also want to train your body to wake up.  You can signal your body that it's time to wake up with these habits.

  1. Open drapes or blinds first thing in the morning
  2. Be exposed to daily natural light in the morning
  3. Wake up at the same time every day
  4. Eat breakfast at the same time each day
  5. Go outside daily, particularly in the morning 

Constantly changing sleep schedules can only make matters worse. These are some things that you'll want to avoid at all costs with your teen.

  1. Never pull all-nighters
  2. Never drive when tired
  3. Avoid sleeping pills, talk to a doctor instead
  4. Never fall asleep at the computer, on video games, or in front of the TV

It's important to teach your children about the importance of sleep. The issue becomes larger and more serious as they grow older and go to college. The peer pressure to pull all-nighters—and forgo sleep entirely—can be overwhelming. Teaching them about sleep early can help! I suggest having your children write a paper about the importance of sleep, perhaps even once per year. Hopefully by the time they graduate high school, they will actually have some concept of the necessity of sleep. It can really help them succeed once they get into college, so it really is an important life skill. The bottom line is that sleep is vital to your teens well-being. Developing good sleep habits and having a regular sleep pattern is possible and it's even possible to get the 8-10 hours of sleep recommended. You can find more information on sleep at the Sleep Foundation site

If you have concerns, speak to a pediatrician to ask advice on solving your teenagers sleep problems. Avoid sleeping pills, as they are over-used or unnecessary and may be ill-advised for teenagers. Instead, focus on lifestyle changes first, and then speak to a family doctor or pediatrician instead.  

Sometimes when you're struggling with a teenager, whether it's because of sleep or something else, it helps to have a good support system to walk with you through it. Join my Gold Care Club. I can be that support system for you, and, I used to be a nurse, so I understand!

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Monday, 27 May 2024

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