Remember when you could just tuck the kids in at 8 pm and have some “me time”? When your child hits puberty, sleep schedules usually start to change. As your child grows up you might find yourself fighting with them over bed time rules that used to be unquestionable.
Younger kids are growing fast and usually get tired early. So it is fairly easy to get them to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
The teenage brain is going through important cognitive changes that can require extra sleep. Family stress, relationship stress, and worries about the future can hit teenagers hard.
Adequate sleep can help keep stress and depression at bay and keep teens from resorting to stimulants to stay awake or downers to go to sleep.
Teens and middle schoolers may actually need just as much sleep as younger people, but they don’t notice it because they are so busy with the new demands of being at a higher grade level.
What happens with the teen sleep cycle?
Puberty tends to push kids into a naturally wakeful state in the late evening as their circadian rhythms adjust to their new teen aged bodies.
Middle school kids and teenagers have different hormonal rhythms than younger kids or adults. So it is arguably natural that they are going to go through sleep changes.
It could be that teens were originally meant to stay up late to find mates back in cave days. As one came into puberty it was customary to find a mate and start reproducing.
Back twenty thousand years ago people only lived to be around 30 years old, so it made sense to get started with family life at the age of 14 or so!
We don’t want early pregnancy these days! But it is natural for teens to want to stay up and socialize online with friends late into the night. Or they might find that this is their most productive time to get homework done.
Most teens go through a period of wanting to stay up late and then get up later in the morning.
But most people go back to more mainstream hours for sleeping once they get out into the adult world beyond high school and college.
School times are changing in some areas to accommodate kids needing more sleep as the importance of sleep is getting to be better understood. Some school systems are starting later with good results.
The demands of teen hood make sleep seem irrelevant
The problem is that as kids hit their teens the demands of school, extracurricular activities and part time jobs grow. Teens start getting more homework and often they take on part time jobs on the weekends and evenings.
Homework loads of three hours or more per day is getting to be the norm around the world as teens compete to get into good colleges.
But it might be time to talk to teachers about cutting back on homework. Sometimes it’s time to change activity levels if your child is feeling overwhelmed, falling behind, and staying up late to try and catch up.
Ultimately the better the teens quality of sleep is the better they will do in school.
Teens are suddenly getting a lot less sleep than they used to. Kids need more sleep than adults. But Teenagers also need more sleep than they think they do. Teenagers are often going through fast growth spurts.
Teens are often participating in sports, dance, and heavy academic loads so that they need even more sleep than they think they otherwise would. Teens can often do better with more than 8 hours of sleep per night.
Short term lack of sleep can cause:
- Increased activity in the sympathetic or fight or flight part of the nervous system
- Adverse metabolic effects can cause weight gain
- Disruption of circadian rhythms
- Lower pain threshold and higher incidence of inflammation
- Mood disorders
- Reduced cognitive function including memory and performance
- Heightened risk-taking behaviors and lack of judgement
Help kids understand that they shouldn’t drive when they are tired. Linking car usage to sleep habits and giving a reward can be a great way to emphasize the importance of sleep.
Long term sleep disruption can contribute to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes and a host of other complications.
It is important to nip negative sleep patterns in the bud before your tween or teen starts to suffer from chronic health concerns that can be avoided with proper sleep hygiene.
How to help your teenager get better quality sleep
It’s important to help your teenager develop good habits early in life. So you might have to start modeling them yourself by going to bed early and getting up early enough to encourage your teen to eat a healthy breakfast.
Encourage good sleep hygiene, by helping teens budget their time and get homework done early.
Set an example and have all family members turn off computers, tablets and phones and put them in a basket or box outside the bedrooms. Do your best to get all the screens out of bedrooms or at least on mute. Try and design areas that are just for sleeping as much as possible.
Do quiet activities to get ready for bed: self-massage, meditation or reading can be great for signaling to the brain that it is time to get ready to sleep.
Napping might also help teens to study more effectively. Just 30 to 60 minutes after school can help. But make sure they don’t sleep for more than an hour because this can throw off their sleep cycle and have them staying up too late.
Trying to get your teen to stick to the same sleep schedule on the weekend and during summer vacation can be tricky. But do your best to model this in your own sleep habits as well on weekends and vacations.
Let your teen know how important sleep is for keeping your weight normal, learning, and retaining information.
Adequate sunlight and exercise every day can help your teenager sleep better.
Managing caffeine and food is another big habit to get right early in life. Cutting back on caffeine early in the day is important. A lot of sports drinks, green tea etc. have a lot more stimulants than your teen might be aware of.
Make sure your teen is not having a heavy snack right before bed can help a lot. Again setting a positive example is the key.
Setting up the teen bedroom for sleep success
- Make sure the room is quiet and dark
- A quality mattress, and comfy bedding can help
- You could try a weighted blanket to help your teen sleep more soundly
Last but not least, make sure your teen has a comfortable pillow
Check out our all natural Buckwheat Pillow for a firm but adjustable neck support.
Your teenager will be sleeping better in no time with a little attention to sleep schedule, planning, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.