Trouble getting up on school days, dozing off in class, marathon lie-ins at weekends… It may feel like your teenager is sleeping their life away.
Lack of sleep also affects teenagers’ education, as it can leave them too tired to concentrate in class and perform well in exams.
Teenagers’ sleep patterns
Our sleep patterns are dictated by light and hormones. When light dims in the evening, we produce a chemical called melatonin, which tells us it’s time to sleep.
The problem is that modern life has disrupted this pattern. Bright room lighting, TVs, games consoles, mobiles, tablets and PCs can all emit enough light to stop our bodies producing melatonin.
On top of this, research suggests that teenagers’ body clocks are set later than adults’ and younger children’s. In other words, they are programmed to stay up later and also get up later than the rest of us.
This wouldn’t be a problem if your teenager didn’t have to get up early for school. These early-morning wake-up times mean they’re not getting the 8 to 9 hours of sleep they need. The result is a tired, cranky teenager.
Tips for better teen sleep
Catching up on sleep at weekends isn’t ideal. Late nights and long lie-ins will just disrupt your teenager’s body clock even more. However tired they feel, teenagers should avoid lie-ins at the weekend. They should also get out into the daylight during the day. Both these things will help to keep their body clock regular, and make it easier to go to sleep and get up at a reasonable time.
See more sleep tips for teenagers.
Don’t drink things containing caffeine (coke, coffee, tea) at least three hours before you go to bed. If possible, cut out caffeine as much as possible, like drinking decaf tea.
Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t stuff yourself. Have your evening meal at least three hours before bed and have supper if you are hungry.
Make sure the bedroom is dark when you go to sleep and light during the day.This means your body expects to sleep when it is dark.
Don’t do homework in your bedroom. This brings bad associations with the bedroom and the idea of spending time in there.
Make sure your room is comfortable: Not too hot or cold and the air isn’t dry.
Have a reasonable bedtime. You have to retrain your body when you get into the habit of staying up late so this must be kept up.
Don’t watch stimulating TV before bed.
If you need a nap you can but only for 40 minutes between 3 and 4 pm. Try to wean this down over time.
Read in bed. This gives your body a chance to relax and wind down before sleep.
Don’t watch the clock. Experts will say that if you have woken and are awake after 20 minutes, you should walk about however this means you will watch the clock and expect that you will have to get up. Turn your alarm clock to the wall or cover it, especially if it glows.
Don’t think about it. This may seem odd, but as long as from the second you put your head on the pillow to sleep you think about something outside of your own life, you will become less aware of your surroundings and gradually fall asleep.
Ideally, go to bed at the same time every night (yes, including weekends) and get up at the same time every day. Technically, teenagers should naturally wake up at 10 am and go to bed at around 1 am (to get the nine hours) however most of society does not cater for this so it means getting up at around seven every day.