5 Tips for Sleepy Teens

Research shows that a healthy teenager needs eight hours of sleep in order to feel well-rested; in order to operate at their full capacity, though, your teen’s developing brain actually requires ten whole hours of sleep. While we recommend aiming for this amount of sleep each night, the reality is that many teens report only getting 6-7 hours of sleep per night. 

If you’ve been wondering why your teen is groggy, grumpy, distractible, naps too frequently, or has trouble staying awake during class, it’s likely your teen most likely isn’t getting the rest they need.

Fortunately, we have some tips for you to help your teen catch up on all the sleep they’ve been missing and create a healthy sleeping routine. Here are our top five tips for good teen sleeping habits. 

  1. Get them off their phone. 

At this point, it’s practically indisputable among researchers that screen time before bed negatively impacts sleep. The blue light from phone, laptop, and television screens engages our brains and inhibits the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Essentially, our brains see the light, “It’s daytime, so it’s not time to sleep.” 

Disallowing screens at least an hour before bedtime will help your teen fall asleep faster. If you’re worried about your teen using their phone or computer unsupervised, you might think about installing parental controls to lock their devices after a certain time. Alternatively, have your teen download an app that cuts the blue light on their phone screen. 

  1. Make it a routine. 

Consistent pre-bed rituals are a great way to fall asleep more easily. If your teen begins a bedtime routine of some sort at least an hour before they get to sleep, their brain will begin shutting down and preparing for sleep. Melatonin will be released freely and without distraction, and your teen will be ready for bed. 

Examples of a bedtime routine might be taking a shower, changing into sweatpants, brushing teeth, and reading a few pages of a book. What happens in the routine doesn’t matter so much as the consistency of the routine itself. As long as they do something every night, and they do it the same every time, the brain will pick up on cues that tell it to prepare for sleep. 

  1. Don’t tolerate exceptions. 

It’s important for your teen to recognize sleep as a valuable asset. The time they spend sleeping is a finite resource, and should be valued the same as the time they spend with friends, doing schoolwork, and during extracurriculars.

In reality, sleep time is even more important, since it helps their brain reset and refuel. Make your teen view bedtime as a priority, as all good things follow from a good night’s sleep. Even schoolwork should be prioritized beneath sleep.

Budgeting time to get a good night’s sleep requires your teen to be efficient and active through the day, which will in turn help them sleep at night! It’s a healthy cycle to build, and will be a good habit for your teen later in life. 

  1. Encourage your teen to schedule their days. 

Keeping your teen’s life on a schedule will encourage them to use their time wisely. This often requires waking up and going to bed at specific times, which will guarantee they get the rest they need.

Have them write in a calendar or notebook their activities and tasks for each day, and have them allot specific amounts of time for each. Exceptions will come up occasionally, but teaching your teen the value of sticking to a schedule won’t just help them sleep better and increase their performance and productivity in other aspects of life.

  1. Minimize naps and caffeine. 

This might seem obvious, but napping and caffeine make it harder to fall asleep at night. If your teen naps during the day, this will only perpetuate the unhealthy cycle of staying up late at night.

Sleep schedules are often delicate and easy to upset, and napping during the day is a sure way to do it. It also means, however, sleep schedules are easy to rectify. It might be a matter of your teen going one day without a nap or one day without caffeine for them to be properly tired by the time bedtime rolls around.

That night, they might get a better night’s sleep and not need a nap the next day. Also, be wary of how much caffeine your teen drinks. Coffee isn’t the only source; soda, tea, and even some foods contain caffeine that could be keeping your teen awake at night. 

Now your teen is ready for a good night’s sleep. 

Some of these techniques may be easier to implement than others, depending on your teen. But these are all proven ways to increase sleep and get your teen the rest they need. And, once they start a healthy sleep cycle, it’s likely they won’t want to stop. Everybody feels the benefits of being well rested, it’s just a matter of getting into a routine and making sleep a priority. 

Andy Earle

Researcher at Talking to Teens
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.

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