Sleep Deprivation Solutions For Teens | Taking Action

The stereotype of the tired teenager is one that seems to be universally accepted by the media, parents and teachers but it downplays the frightening reality of teen sleep deprivation. The recommended amount of sleep in adolescence is 9-10 hours per night but as they juggle the demands of school, extracurricular activities and sport, as well as spending time with friends, teens are reporting that they sleep for 7 hours or less [5]. As this becomes a significant health and well-being issue which affects, mood, behaviour and academic performance it’s important to explore solutions to counter sleep deprivation that are straight-forward, easy to implement and encourage your teen to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing [4].

Teenagers are not likely to change their habits until they recognise the positive impact that more sleep will have on their health. [2]. They are growing up in a world that has 24-hour news and social media cycles and their rooms seem almost constantly lit by the soft glow of screens [2]. Parents are encouraged to prioritise good sleep habits in collaboration with their teen to find practical solutions that encourage optimal sleep. Once your teen begins to experience the positive effects of more sleep this can help to encourage long-term changes that could have innumerable benefits for them in both the short and long term. [2].

Finding Sleep Deprivation Solutions For Teens And Encouraging Good Sleep Habits

Teenagers respond best to conversations that treat them as equals.

Encourage your child to take ownership of their roles in establishing procedures for sleep management. This involves thinking about their current system: what’s working well for them, what are the challenges and what could be improved.

Explore the idea that it takes some time to adjust the body clock, particularly if they have been used to staying up until late in the evening. If your teenager is sleep deprived even an extra thirty minutes of sleep will accumulate to create a positive difference over time. Teenagers should aim for an hour of ‘no screen time’ [1] before bed in order to begin the wind-down process. Listen to their thoughts, provide ideas and work on a solution together. [1]. This will ensure your solution is more manageable and has a greater chance of ‘sticking’ as it will be done willingly and positively. It’s also acknowledged that the influence of parents helping their child set limits and boundaries around bedtimes has been found to be a significant factor in finding which solution is the most effective.

Here are some sleep deprivation solutions for teens that can form the basis of your planning.

1. Create A Comfortable Routine

Look to replace stimulating activities with restful ones instead [1]. A truly restful bedtime routine will incorporate a combination of repeated activities that your teenager enjoys. Some potential ideas include:

  • Reading – a great idea that is not only calming but could have a positive impact on their studies as well

  • A hot drink (warm milk or herbal tea) could become part of the routine

  • Taking a warm bath or long shower might help with relaxation

  • Listening to soft music or a podcast instead of playing on a phone, tablet or computer [3]

  • Meditation or progressive muscle relaxation activities could also be useful

2. Design The Ideal Sleeping Space

The goal with a sleeping space is that it is uncluttered, uses natural light [6] but can become quite dark [3] and is neither too hot nor too cold. Whether the space is tidy or not is your call as a parent, but try to look at it from the objective perspective of ‘will this enhance or detract from sleep?’

While asking that question, bring the use of electronics into the discussion. Using a smartphone or devices, playing loud music or playing video games prior to sleep will not allow for relaxation and a peaceful night’s rest [6]. Where possible, eliminate their use as early in the evening as possible. Screens emit a ‘blue light’ with a frequency that sends signals to the brain which causes the production of melatonin to be suppressed.  As a result, getting to and staying asleep then becomes more difficult.

3. Encourage Healthy Habits During The Day

Physical activity during the day will assist your teenager in being able to fall asleep (and stay asleep) at night. Brainstorm possible ways to incorporate more daily physical activities that will work for your family.

The consumption of caffeine and energy drinks [1] is hugely detrimental to healthy sleep, particularly for young people. Work with your teenager to find alternative solutions that will not negatively impact on their ability to relax.

As your teen becomes older, the pressures of school will begin to become more intense. If this is part of the issue when it comes to sleep deprivation, work out a studying timetable that ensures ‘all nighters’ don’t become commonplace[5].

4. Build Consistency

Structure is important for both children and teens [1]. Together, set time limits on stimulating activities like TV and video games. Invest in a family calendar (hard copy or app) so all activities can be seen at a glance and you avoid over-commitment [3]. Build this structure into your weekends so that your child goes to bed at a consistent time every night – not just during the week [2].

While it’s best to take a diplomatic approach,  you may find the need to be quite strict at the beginning of this process [5]. Experiment with these changes until you find the model that best suits your family and be willing to listen to your teen to adjust the plan as necessary, so they can take ownership of the solutions.

If sleep continues to elude your teen, you should seek the professional opinion of a medical practitioner.

5. Encourage An Open Dialogue

The best way to motivate your teen to change their behaviour is to help them to understand why they should. For adolescents, being lectured by a parent is often antagonistic.  Therefore, if you approach the conversation from a position of support and guidance rather than discipline you have a greater chance of making them understand the benefit of a good night’s rest [4].

Creating Collaborative Solutions To Tackle Teenage Sleep Deprivation

Discuss the importance of getting a good night’s rest with your teen. You should help them to understand the benefits of sufficient sleep, while also identifying the negative consequences of having poor sleeping habits.  You may also want to establish some positive behavioural changes to implement together. This sort of collaborative approach can make a real difference in forging a healthy sleep routine in your home, while also helping your teen to start taking ownership of their own health and wellbeing.

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  1. Sleep Problems In Childhood and Adolescence For Parents, Carers And Anyone Who Works With Young People

  2. How To Help Teenagers Get More Sleep

  3. Teenagers and Sleep

  4. The Dangers Of Sleep Deprivation In Teenagers – And The Solutions

  5. Solving Teen Sleep Deprivation With Science

  6. Sleep Problems And Solutions: Children And Teenagers

  7. Understanding And Treating Teen Sleep Problems

  8. Teenage Sleep Problems And How To Help Them Get Back On Track

  9. Common Causes, Effects And Solutions To Sleep Deprivation In Children

  10. 4 Solutions To Teen Sleep Problems

  11. Sleep Problems In Children

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