Teen Sleep: How Parents Can Help Teens Get More, Better Quality Sleep

It is amazing to think that something as seemingly simple as sleep can make such a difference in a young person’s life. A study published in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that high school students who sleep less than seven hours on school nights are more likely to take part in risky behaviors than students who enjoy nine full hours of sleep. These activities could range in severity, from riding a bike without a helmet, to texting while driving, to the abuse of medications, which in turn can lead to even worse sleep quality. The findings are a wakeup call to parents, who should make good sleep for their teens and tweens as important a priority as good nutrition, exercise, and academic pursuits. By making just a few lifestyle changes, we can help our teens be set up for greater success.​​

Teen Sleep in America: Poor Sleep and its Effects on the Brain
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens are not getting enough sleep, which can have serious consequences for teens and those they interact with. Teens need between eight and 10 hours per night, but only 15% obtain that much on school nights. Additionally, their sleeping patterns are often irregular, because teens try to make up for lost hours by sleeping in on weekends—often after staying up later than they would on a school night—which can affect their biological clock and sleep quality. This makes them miss out on the important brain benefits sleep bestows, including memory solidification, the elimination of toxins, and enhancing cognitive abilities and creativity.

Recommended Lifestyle Changes for Better Teen Sleep
Ensure your children only use smart phones, tablets, and other digital devices for a maximum of two hours a day. A recent study by researchers at San Diego State University has shown that teens who spend five hours a day online are 50% less likely to sleep enough compared with their peers. Without a doubt, the technology boom has affected the quality of our sleep; the spike in smartphone use first began in 2009, and today, students are sleeping 17% less than they used to before the boom began.

Additional Tips to Help Your Teen Get More, Better Quality Sleep:

  • Exercise: Numerous studies have shown that regular physical activity promotes better mood and energy throughout the day, but also better sleep at night.
  • Nutrition: Those who stay up late cramming tend to indulge in unhealthy habits such as drinking caffeine or even bingeing on junk food, which can cause digestive upset and make it difficult to sleep.
  • Routine: Without a set bedtime, sleep patterns can vary considerably. Part of a good bedtime routine can include meditation, breathing exercises, or progressive relaxation exercises.
  • Environment: Finally, ensure that your teen’s bedroom is sleep-friendly. When the curtains are drawn the bedroom should be totally dark and cool so blackout curtains or blinds may be a good solution.

Sleep is crucial for the brain; in the case of teens, sleeping for at least eight hours is vital for academic performance, mood, and behavior. Parents can help their adolescent children by enlightening them on how their brain can be affected by missing out on sleep, by providing them with a sound diet, and by suggesting small changes to their bedtime routine that can make a big difference.

 Jane Sandwood has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 10 years. She has worked across a variety of fields in both print and digital form. She is particularly interested in writing about topics relating to health and wellbeing. When she’s not writing, you’ll find Jane with her nose in a good book or just spending time with her family.