Sleep deprivation: It’s common among adults and even more common among teens. Most teenagers should get a little over nine hours of sleep per night, but many adolescents simply do not. A lack of sleep can lead to a host of physical and mental health conditions, including fatigue, anxiety, depression, headaches, and digestive issues. If you are the parent of a sleep deprived teen who isn’t getting enough shut-eye, here are some things you can do to improve the situation and help your teen get the sleep his or her body and mind need.
Explain the Issues (Sleep Deprived Teens)
Many teens feel invincible and feel that sleep deprivation isn’t affecting them. As a parent, however, you can likely see the issues that a lack of sleep is causing. In addition, not getting enough sleep can cause health concerns as well as safety concerns. Explaining the issue to your adolescent can help them become more aware of the problems that not sleeping enough is causing.
For example, let your sleep deprived teen know that he or she will do better in school and on the sports field if they get more sleep. Physical symptoms like a lack of appetite (or, in some cases, an overly large appetite), headaches, and eye strain are all made worse by fatigue. In addition, a lack of sleep can make your sleep deprived teen feel more stressed and moody and even increase signs of depression. Once you point out these issues, your teenager might be more likely to agree to try to get more sleep.
Set Some Boundaries
Younger teens can still benefit from a set bedtime, and even older teens might need some direction and oversight when it comes to getting ready for bed. Feel free to shut down the wifi after a certain time and to insist that your teenager’s phone is charging on the kitchen counter or in some other public area of the home. While you can’t force your teen to close his or her eyes and go to sleep, not having access to electronics and social media just might cause your teen to become bored and decide to go to sleep on his or own.
Boundaries work in the mornings, too. If you are still waking up your teen each morning and are met with a bad attitude or groaning, you can make getting up on time his or her responsibility. The natural consequence of oversleeping might mean missing the bus or a ride and being forced to pay for a taxi to get to school. Of course, if your teen is more than happy to simply stay home from school, you will need to create a logical consequence for not making it to school. When you make getting up on time your teen’s responsibility, it might cause them to decide to go to bed earlier to make mornings easier.
Encourage Better Sleep Hygiene
If your teen is laying down at a reasonable hour and is simply not able to fall asleep easily, they might need some tips on better sleep hygiene. First, make sure that it is cool enough in the room. Your teen should have a few layers of blankets on the bed so they can make sure they aren’t too warm or too cool. A fan will circulate the air and can also provide some white noise, which is good for drifting off.
Taking a hot bath or shower before bed will alert the body that it’s time to start winding down. Putting away the electronics an hour or more before bedtime will also allow the body to create serotonin, which is the hormone that helps you to feel sleepy. A nice bedtime routine might include journaling, a cup of tea, or reading in bed for a while. When your sleep deprived teen follows the same routine each night, he or she should begin to naturally get tired at about the same time each evening.
Help Your Teen Make Choices
Sometimes, a hectic schedule is enough to stop your teen from sleeping well. Most teens need to wake up at around 6:00 in the morning to get ready for school. If they have sports practice after school, then dinner, then homework, it’s possible that they simply are not able to get to bed before 11 or 12, which sets them up for fatigue the next day. Other teens work part-time jobs and have the same issue. And, of course, some teens like to spend hours socializing with friends, either in person or via their electronics. In these cases, choices need to be made about how your teen will spend his or her waking hours.
It might be that your teen needs to limit him- or herself to only one after-school activity a few days per week. Maybe the hours from their part-time job need to be scaled back until summer vacation. Perhaps taking many honors classes that involve a lot of homework is too much and one or more subjects can be dropped to the next level down, which might cut out some of the hours spent studying. To help your teen avoid the sleep deprived feeling talk to them about these options and help him or her make some decisions.
Encourage Sleeping In When Possible
While your teen will ideally get about nine hours of sleep each night, it is unrealistic to think that it will happen every weeknight. In fact, it might be close to impossible for it to happen even one or two nights per week when school hours and homework make for little free time. Sleeping in on the weekends can help your sleep deprived teen regain some of those lost hours of sleep. Unless there’s a reason that it’s not feasible, try to allow your teen to sleep until mid-morning at least one weekend day. Also, encourage an early bedtime at least one night per week. Sundays often work well because homework is done before Sunday afternoon and there aren’t usually sports games or practices on Sunday evenings.
These years will go by quickly and it’s common for teens to think that they don’t need to sleep much. Unfortunately, the health consequences of under-sleeping will catch up to them sooner or later. Do what you can now to help encourage healthy habits when it comes to getting enough sleep.