Few everyday activities are as vital to a teen’s physical and emotional health as getting enough sleep. If your teen is having trouble sleeping, you need to help him or her evaluate the sleep problems, consider potential causes, learn about healthy sleep, and take measures to promote change.
Evaluate Your Teen’s Sleep Problems
Is your teen having trouble falling asleep at night, waking up multiple times during the night, or waking up exceptionally early, unable to go back to sleep at all? Is your teen falling asleep in the middle of school or other daytime activities? Does your teen have trouble all the time, or only sometimes? You may want to start a sleep journal to help evaluate how often and on which days your teen has trouble. Depending on the type of sleep problems your teen is having, there are many potential causes, and some caused by physical problems while others are caused by lifestyle choices or even emotional turmoil.
Consider Potential Causes of Problems
Before you consider a medical sleep study for issues like sleep apnea or narcolepsy, there are several more common factors that are known to contribute to sleep trouble. In your teen’s sleep journal, you may want to begin charting the following elements of each day, along with details of any sleep problems each night:
• caffeine intake
• deviations from regular diet
• physical activity level
• specific bed time
• evening screen time
• types of activities preceding bed time
• any daytime napping
• any stressful or frustrating situations
• any anxiety, excitement, or pressure
As you begin to record the above issues that can play into sleep problems, you may be able to isolate a few regular causes of your teen’s sleep problems.
Educate Your Teen About Healthy Sleep
Teens and twenty-somethings often feel as if they’re invincible. A healthy teen can stay up all night and not really feel it the way older adults usually do. They can get away with eating unhealthy foods without gaining weight or feeling sluggish. But that doesn’t mean that unhealthy habits aren’t affecting their bodies — or their emotions. With all the hormonal fluctuations and other factors changing in the adolescent body, it may be difficult to isolate the role sleep plays, but we know that it does affect mood, learning, and overall health. What’s more, healthy amounts of exercise, proper nutrition, and coping mechanisms influence a teen’s ability to get good sleep — which, in turn, affects those factors for the next day. The cycle can be a good one — or a problematic one — for generally healthy teens.
Take Measures To Promote Change
Maybe you want to play it like an experiment and change one factor each week. For instance, during week one, you may want to try keeping bedtime consistent and staying in bed for at least the prescribed 9 hours, each night. The next week, add no screen time for the hour before bed. The following week, be sure to get in at least an hour of rigorous physical activity early in the day, etc.