How to Talk to Your Teen About Sleep

It can be hard to convey the importance of sleep to a high schooler—these tips will help get the conversation going.

With time and experience, most adults know that not getting enough sleep can impact their mood and make it tough to concentrate. Too bad teens don’t see that connection so clearly! Between school, sports, socializing, and other extracurricular activities, sleeping falls way down on the list of priorities. That helps explain why even though high schoolers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night, most don’t get that. It’s up to parents to convey the importance of sleeping enough. Start with these four strategies.

  • Play up the positives. Sometimes it helps to point out the benefits that come with changing a behavior. In this case, not only will quality sleep help teens focus better in school and feel happier overall, it can also improve the appearance of their skin, keep them from getting sick, and help them maintain a healthy weight.
  • Emphasize consistency. A lots of teenagers, and even grown ups, think they can skimp on shut-eye during the week if they make up for it on the weekend. Not true. An extra hour or two of sleep on Saturday and Sunday can backfire, throwing off a person’s internal body clock and making it hard to fall asleep at the appropriate time come Sunday evening.
  • Give the hard facts. It’s estimated that one out of every five auto accidents involves a sleepy driver. That’s why it’s so important to explain what it feels like to be too tired to get behind the wheel (for example, you have trouble keeping your head up or your eyes open). Reassure your teen that he can always call you to pick him up no matter where he is or what time it is, if he’s too sleepy to drive.
  • Lead by example. Sleep isn’t as fun as texting with friends and it seems less necessary than cramming for an exam. Help your teen view sleep as a priority by making it one in your own life as well. Set up a family charging station for electronic devices outside of the bedrooms, so phones can power up overnight without tempting anyone to check messages. Talk to your teen about the benefits of unplugging, and make a point of leaving your own devices there when you go to bed. Rarely is anything so important it can’t wait until after a good night’s sleep.