Along with good nutrition and regular exercise, sleep is a necessity for good health. But sleep deprivation, considered a chronic health problem, is common in teenagers.
Why is sleep such a big issue for teenagers?
Understanding the natural process of teenage sleep is essential for improving your teenagers sleeping habits.
Around the time of puberty, teenagers naturally develop a shift in their sleeping phases. Puberty causes the sleep hormone called melatonin, which is naturally released by the brain, to be released later in the night.
This means teenagers often don’t feel sleepy until later and want to sleep in the following morning. Some schools overseas have even adapted their high school start times to accommodate students sleeping habits. Unfortunately, this is not always practical for working families, or families with children of varying ages!
Which explains why when your teenager tells you that they are not tired yet, even though you’ve got matchsticks keeping your eyes open, they are telling you the truth.
However, it is crucial that teenagers get adequate amount of sleep and most need around 9 hours a night to be well-rested. Chronic sleep deprivation has a negative effect on your child’s behaviour and ability to learn at school.
What can you do to help?
One of the biggest enemies of good sleep is screens. Screens emit a form of blue light that interferes with the release of melatonin. Turning screens off at least 1 hour before you want your teenager to go to sleep can go a long way towards ensuring they get a good night’s sleep.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up schedule. Try not to alter it, even on weekends, as this can be disruptive to sleeping patterns.
Avoid caffeine, preferably from midday. This includes soft drinks, energy drinks and tea or coffee.
Try a glass of milk before bed. Milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan that is converted to melatonin by the body and can help your teenager get to sleep more easily. It doesn’t matter if they like it warm or cold!