The wonderful advances in technology and the intense engagement of Social Media are having a tremendous impact on the amount and quality of sleep young people are getting. Getting enough sleep is incredibly important for teenagers, as it can affect their overall health, well-being, and academic performance.
The teenage brain is under construction and most of the rewiring of their brains actually happens while they are asleep as they need that time for the brain to sort, file and connect their new learning to their previous experiences to create new understanding.
Teenagers require around 8-10 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. The fact that their circadian rhythms also change during this time is also a challenge which combined with blue light emitting devices can leave them sleepy, disorganised, and generally irritable, all of which influence their mood and ability to concentrate.
Here are my nine tips to help teenagers get sufficient sleep:
1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule:
Encourage your teenager to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This way the body will create the natural, consistent rhythms that are so essential for a healthy body and mind.
2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine:
Encourage your teenager to wind down before bed by reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to calming music. If the routine stays consistent, the body will get used to it and seek the consistency.
3. Limit caffeine and sugar intake:
Caffeine is a stimulant and can interfere with sleep, so encourage your teenager to avoid consuming caffeine-containing drinks or foods, especially in the evening.
4. Create a comfortable sleep environment:
Make sure your teenager’s bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Encourage them to use comfortable pillows and blankets. Make sure that they turn off fairy lights or RGB lighting as the light will interfere with their sleep.
5. Encourage regular exercise:
Regular exercise can help promote better sleep, but avoid intense exercise before bedtime. Teenagers get way less exercise than previous generations and the effect of exercise on their bodies will make them feel better and sleep better.
6. Limit screen time before bed:
Encourage your teenager to avoid using electronic devices, such as smartphones or laptops, for at least an hour before bed. Blue light has been shown to interfere with circadian rhythms and the secretion of melatonin which helps with the onset of sleep.
7. Communicate the importance of sleep:
Help your teenager understand why sleep is important for their health, well-being, and academic performance. Ask them to help you design sleep patterns and routines that can empower them to get a good night’s rest.
8. Lead by example:
As a parent or caregiver, make sure you prioritise sleep in your own life and establish healthy sleep habits for yourself. Children usually do as we do rather than do as we say.
9. Limit the number of late night shifts at work:
Many employers who have night shifts like to use older teenagers to do the late shifts as they are cheaper to pay and less likely to complain. Sometimes it falls to us as parents to help them navigate the expectations of employers by empowering them to be able to negotiate less shifts that end at more appropriate times.
Good luck as you guide your child in this important aspect of life by creating an environment for them to thrive and have a less moody, irritable teenager at home.
Bert Kasselman, Head of Senior School