If getting your teen to go to bed at a reasonable hour feels like an uphill battle, rest assured it’s not just your child’s willful assertion of independence. In fact, the body’s circadian rhythms can shift during adolescence, leaving many teens feeling wide-eyed later into the night. Unfortunately, with early school start times, staying up until 10:00 PM may not allow for enough nighttime sleep, leaving your teen dragging during the day. It can also increase the risk of traffic accidents for young drivers, take a toll on academic performance, and may even contribute to mental health problems. Though it may feel like a struggle to explain the importance of sleep to your child, the teen years are an important time to learn skills that for health and happiness later in life. Here are four strategies for helping your teen wake up feeling refreshed.
Practice Time Management
From sports and school to friends and jobs there are no shortage of things competing for your teen’s time and attention. Unfortunately, trying to do too much can result in far less than the eight to 10 hours of sleep teens need to support growth and development during this critical period. Together, look at his schedule and make a list of all activities, chores, family obligations, and dates with friends. Have your teen decide which activities are most important, and which ones could be reduced or eliminated to make time for more sleep. It’s a tough conversation to have, but time management is the key to good sleep habits.
Set a Media Curfew
Your teen is already battling natural body rhythms that want to keep him up later at night. Add in the temptation of a TV, computer, and smartphone and it can be game over for a reasonable bedtime. What’s more, the light those devices emit can further interfere with sleep rhythms at any age. Have a chat with your teen about a media curfew starting an hour before bedtime. If you find tech devices are still being used after that time, consider taking control and setting your home wi-fi network to automatically turn off at a scheduled time each night, ideally an hour before bedtime.
Wind Down Together
Just as your children are more likely to eat their vegetables if you eat yours, and more apt to exercise if they see you doing it too, your insistence that they get to bed is going to carry more weight if you demonstrate your own efforts to stick with a sleep schedule. Each night at the agreed upon time, switch off the TV and computer and encourage everyone in the family to grab a book. Play some quiet music, dim the lights and turn down the thermostat, all signals to the brain and body that it’s time to prepare for bed.
Stick with a Schedule
The weekend may seem like an ideal time for teens to catch up on sleep. But sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday can throw off the body clock, making it even tougher to wake up on time come Monday morning. Try to keep your teen’s weekend schedule similar to the weekday routine, making sure to wake him within an hour or two of his usual school alarm. If he still needs more sleep, suggest a 20 to 30 minute nap in the mid-afternoon—early enough that it won’t interfere with nighttime sleep.