Sleep is essential for teens. There are so many changes occurring – emotionally, physically, psychologically – that the brain and body need the rest. It’s for this reason that teens should get 9-10 hours of sleep while adults really only need 7-8 hours.
However, some teens have a hard time sleeping due to a mental illness. If teens are depressed, anxious, or severely moody, they may have a difficult time falling and staying asleep. The following are techniques to help facilitate a better sleep schedule for your teen:
1. Have a set schedule. Try to establish a regular sleep schedule every day of the week for your teen. If an adolescent, for example, needs to get up at 6am in order to be at school on time, they need to go to bed at 9pm. With this schedule, they will get 9 hours of sleep at night. If your teen is having trouble sleeping, the more important it will be to stay firm to the schedule you create. A regular schedule can help teens with getting the right amount of rest.
2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Sometimes, simply drinking too much caffeine during the day can lead to not being able to sleep. It is as though the caffeine’s effect stays in the body throughout the day and keeps the mind and central nervous system too awake to be able to fall asleep. Along those lines, alcohol for some people can also create a feeling of energy and aliveness which prevents being able to go to sleep, and the same is true for nicotine. Although some might say that teens are too young for any of these substances, but many adolescents use them regularly. And if this is true, then the use of these substances may be affecting a teen’s ability to sleep.
3. Only use the bed for sleeping only. If your teen is in that worry-no sleep-worry-no sleep cycle, then the best way to break the cycle is to make a strong connection between the bed and sleeping. If might be the case if your teen struggles with anxiety. Trying to fall asleep and not being able to can further exacerbate insomnia. However, the best course of action is to neutralize the anxiety. One way to do this is to have your teen create an association between the bed and falling asleep. Don’t allow him or her to do anything else in the bed but sleep. And if your teen is not sleeping, then he or she should get up until tired again. Making that association can help remove anxiety and facilitate falling asleep faster.
4. Eat well. In general, try to encourage your teen to eat healthy. You might also, if you have the time, prepare meals for your teen to ensure proper nutrition. In addition to this, try not to let your teen eat right before going to bed. When you’re hungry and when you’ve eaten too much, your body might be unable to sleep. Both situations can be distractions. Ideally, avoid eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime. And to avoid being hungry at bedtime, eat a light snack about an hour or two before bed, such as an apple with a slice of cheese or a few whole-wheat crackers.
5. Exercise. When a teen’s body is physically tired, he or she is more likely to fall right into sleep when it comes to bedtime. For instance, sleep specialist Mohammad Hasin agrees that “to ensure good sleep, it’s important that you tire your body out.” He suggests to exercise shortly before going to sleep, whether that’s running, cycling, or going for a brisk walk. The energy spent during the physical exercise can facilitate feeling fatigued enough to sleep. Exercise is a great way to keep the active mind at bay, which can get in the way of trying to fall asleep. Exercise is also a great way to prevent depression.
6. Sleep in a comfortable environment. Creating a comfortable sleeping environment is important. Make sure your teen’s bedroom is as comfortable as possible. Usually a room that is quiet, dark, and cool can facilitate falling asleep.
It’s important for parents to help their teen stick to a regular schedule by keeping in mind the unique amount of sleep their child needs.