Ensuring your teenager gets enough sleep can be an up hill battle. We asked Seed’s Sleep Coach for Children & Babies, Emily Guiver, to explain why it’s so difficult to get teens to bed at a reasonable time and more importantly what we can do to help them get those all important zzzzzz’s!
How many teenagers actually get the ideal 8 – 9 hours of sleep per night? Not Enough!
So our teens are not well rested, they aren’t ready to learn and engage, they can’t optimise their emotional well-being and are even limiting their ability to grow and be fully healthy.
Unfortunately it’s very common for teens to get much less than the recommended amount of sleep and there are a variety of reasons why…. .
Due to natural changes in the circadian rhythm that happen during adolescence, including a much later release of melatonin (the sleepy hormone that works alongside our circadian rhythm – and which is also negatively affected by blue light from screens), teenagers tend to not feel tired enough to actually fall asleep until closer to 11pm. However, many teens need to get up quite early on weekdays in order to get to school or college and are therefore not getting a minimum of eight hours sleep. Long term this can lead to a build up of sleep ‘debt’, or sleep deprivation. Asking a teenager to get up at 6.30am for school is like asking an adult to get up at 4.30am, it’s no wonder it’s near impossible to rouse them or get them moving in the mornings!
To counteract this, many teens will then lie in at the weekends and rarely emerge until lunchtime, which actually contributes to the problem. Similar to jet lag, this irregular sleeping pattern can cause a disruption to the circadian rhythm and leave teens still feeling tired and sluggish even if they lie in. This in turn can lead to them going to sleep even later the following night as their sleep pressure, or ‘drive’ to fall asleep needs to build up enough again.
Below are some tips that may help your teenager to achieve more sleep at night and wake each morning more refreshed and ready to go!
Overall, I would always advise parents to involve their teenagers in improving their sleep patterns, gently reminding them why it’s important to get enough sleep, but allowing them ownership of the issue and giving them the opportunity to choose the strategies that work best for them, and their schedule.
Work backwards from the time they need to get up in the morning, to figure out what time they ideally need to go to bed in order to get at least 8 hours sleep – also accounting for wind down time.
It also helps for parents to understand that it’s very normal for teenagers to want to stay up late and sleep in late – this is due to natural changes to their sleep structure as they enter puberty and not something they are usually in control of!