Most parents have noticed their teens are excessively sleepy at one point or another, which indicates that their brains are underperforming. The developing teen brain needs 8-10 hours of sleep per night, yet the National Sleep Foundation reports that more than half of teens are not getting enough rest. Sleep deprivation causes poor memory, focus, and energy levels, putting your teen at risk of declining school performance, increased risk of getting in a car accident, and less positive emotions. However, the solution can be very simple. In fact, we have 7 tricks that are proven to help cure teenage sleep-deprivation.
Quiet and Darken the Bedroom
The first place to evaluate to fix sleepless nights is the environment of the bedroom. If a lot of light get into your teen’s bedroom at night, that can make it harder to get to sleep. You might think about installing black out curtains over the windows.
Noise is another factor to assess. It’s important to keep the room as quiet as possible, but if there is a lot of ambient sound that can’t be reduced, you could try incorporating a fan or white noise machine to wash it out. In both cases, is the goal is to make the room less stimulating so the brain can get to rest.
Reduce Screen Time Before Bed
It’s common for teenagers to use phones, laptops, and TV right before bed, but it can actually interfere with sleep. The blue light emitted from digital screens tricks the brain into thinking it’s still day time, so the brain has trouble transitioning to sleep. If you can encourage your teen to put away the screens an hour before bed, they will have a much easier time getting to sleep. One way to do this is to have everyone in the family charge their devices in another room of the house. Another is to use parental controls that limit screen time.
Cut Out Caffeine
If your teen is having tea, coffee, or chocolate later in the day, the caffeine present in these foods can interrupt their sleep. The solution is to only ingest caffeine early in the day, if at all. If your teen is resistant to cutting out caffeine, it could be due to the fact that they are compensating for sleepiness. In this case, removing caffeine is even more important because they will get better rest without it, and after a few days, won’t feel the need to use caffeine to stay awake.
Make a Bedtime Routine
One way to get better rest is to cue the brain that it’s bedtime through the use of a nightly routine. If your teen gets in the habit of doing the same thing every night before bed, such as taking a hot shower, reading a book, or brushing their teeth in their pajamas, their brain will start to make a connection between that behavior and getting ready for sleep. This will help the mind unwind before bed and start releasing sleep-inducing chemicals like melatonin so your teen can get to sleep faster.
Reserve the Bed for Sleeping Only
This next trick has to do with training the brain the bed is for rest. When you’re in a certain environment, your brain has specific thought patterns for that context. If your teen is used to studying in bed, or watching TV in bed, it makes the context of being in bed more stimulating, so the brain is encouraged to be more active to assist with homework or leisure activities. If your teen reserves the bed for sleeping only, the act of getting in bed will train their brain to get ready for sleep and reduce activity, so your teen isn’t up late with a busy mind.
Encourage Consistent Wake-Up Times
Waking up at the same time every day can help your teen get better sleep. If your teen tends to sleep in on the weekends, they will probably have trouble getting to sleep that night, so they’ll want to sleep in again to get enough rest. This is problematic when your teen has to wake up for school, and can’t sleep in to get enough hours. We suggest enticing your teen to wake up at the same time whether there’s school or not to make their sleep schedule more consistent. You could try making breakfast or plan a fun activity to get them up early even on the weekend.
Don’t Let Homework Get in the Way
Many teens are sleep-deprived because they stay up late doing homework. If your teen is putting off homework until late at night, we recommend that you tell them to go to sleep at bedtime whether the homework is finished or not. This will encourage your teen to try and manage their homework time better in the future, while making sure that their sleep isn’t at risk. It’s more important for your teen to be well-rested so they can be sharp during the school day than to be sleep-deprived just to finish an assignment. Chances are, their grades will suffer more from chronic sleepiness than from incomplete assignments.
The Solution is Simple
These simple tricks are sure to help your teen get better rest and prevent them from feeling sleep-deprived. If none of these methods prove to be effective, there might be additional factors messing with their sleep, such as anxiety or a bad reaction to a medication. If you think this might be the case, we suggest you speak with a doctor instead, because sleep is critical to your teen’s success.