Raising Great Teens

Raising Great Teens

Let’s be honest living with a sleep deprived teen is like living with a sleep deprived toddler on steroids. It’s awful for them and awful for you. 

Sleep deprivation is on the increase in teens. It has doubled in the last 15 years. Sleep deprivation is about lack of sleep, low quality sleep and not sleeping at the right times. 

The effects of sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in their ability to learn, and to manage emotions and thought processes (at a time when there is already a reduced capacity because of the stage of brain development they are in). It increases the risk of anxiety and depression, risky behaviour and the longer it lasts the harder it can be to reign back in.

Nature is also not on your teens side when it comes to sleep deprivation, or rather should I say society is not. Your teen may not actually be tired and there is a physical reason for this. 

Do you find your teen saying they are not tired at bedtime? Are they negotiating with you for 5 more minutes? Are they suddenly starting up conversation or seem to have lots of energy? 

Our teens body clock changes during puberty because of other chemical changes for puberty. However, school times don’t adapt to this. Just by going through puberty without the allowance for the change in body clock means that your teen is at risk of sleep deprivation.

Does your teen struggle to get up in the morning? Okay so to be far, there are not many of us that can jump out of bed as soon as the alarm clock goes off.  However, in teens the chemical melatonin which induces sleep is released later in the evening and longer into the morning for teens. This means that it can be hard for them to physically wake up. Some teens are affected more by their internal clock than others. 

Signs your teen may have sleep deprivation.

Big sleep ins and catch-up sleeps.

A teen that is sleep deprived through the week will often have extremely long sleep ins at weekend. While it can be common for teens to sleep until 9.30-10am if your teen is not getting up until the afternoon, they are very possibly sleep deprived.

 Does your teen fall asleep at every opportunity? In the car, as soon as they get home from school or work? While a quick nap can be beneficial for some teens and adults alike, we all love a quick nana nap, napping for longer periods everyday is another indication of sleep deprivation. Day napping and long sleep ins hinder your teen falling asleep at night at a reasonable hour, this can lead to sleep deprivation. 

Low in mood or cranky

Are you walking around on eggshells with your teen? Do you feel that your teen is quieter than normal? Is your teen fighting more with their siblings over the smallest of things? We’ve all been there, late night out followed by an early morning. Remember how it makes you feel sad and cranky. Teens are no different if they are sleep deprived. Crankiness and moodiness is not only the result of fluctuating hormones during the teens years.

Anxiety and depression

It is normal for your teen to feel sad or overwhelmed with life’s ups and downs. This can last for a few days and you may see changes in eating, sleeping, concentrating and motivation levels as well as voicing feeling sad.

When a teen is sleep deprived, they are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, a serious mental health disorder. Signs of anxiety may include; extreme worry about specific things or everyday life, not able to concentrate, avoiding, appearing on edge, physical aches and pains. Signs of depression may include; feeling worthless, withdrawing from socialising, anger and irritability, changes in eating, sleeping and self-care, changes in grades and undertaking more risky behaviours. When a teen suffers from anxiety or depression, their sleep ability is often impacted too as a result of the anxiety and depression. 

Sleeping less than 9 hours a night regularly 

Sleeping 9 hours is the recommended sleep time for teens so that they can stay mentally and physically fit, reach their academic performance and have good health later in life.  Having a consistent sleep routine that enables 9 hours is paramount for creating lifelong healthy sleep habits for health, wellbeing both now and in the future.

4 Tips to help your teen sleep, even when they don’t want to.

There is a lot of opportunities and pressure (with lots of benefits too), for teens to be busy; school, homework, jobs both paid and at home, sports, hobbies and socialising with friends and family. With all the business it is very common for a teen to lose the number of hours they are getting in sleep. 

  • Influence with knowledge, empathy and kindness

When you aren’t ready for your day to end it can be hard to be told to go to bed and sleep, even more so if you do not understand the importance of sleep. Explaining with empathy the reasons why sleep is important. “I can see you are frustrated at me for keeping a bedtime, I understand that you don’t always feel tired. I do this because when teens get 9 hours sleep at night, they are happier, more organised, smarter and healthier…honest”. Influence rather than demand one small change to a night routine, let them choose the change and ask how you can help support them to stick to it.  Praise all changes and praise all willingness to change their routine. 

  • Routine, Routine, Routine

A consistent routine tells the brain that it is time to be getting ready for sleep. Somethings you may want to put into the routine include a light snack, shower, no screens 30 mins before bed, wind down chat in bed to let the brain process the day and a lotion or potion that is only used at night (link smell with bedtime). All these triggers will reinforce to the brain that sleep time is very near and it is time to wind down. Just like turning the dishwasher on, locking the doors and sorting out the pets is part of our night routine!

Stick to the routine Monday to Friday and don’t go to far out of the routine on weekends. Give extra time for the night routine as some teens need extra help with organisation and staying on task. Praise all efforts at sticking to the routine.

  • Create the right environment

A room that is calm, uncluttered and cool will be easier to fall asleep in. Some teens may need a little company while they have a five-minute tidy up, even if this means just putting the things on their bed in a corner of the room so they can sleep in a clear bed. Teens can feel hot one minute and cold the next as their hormones fluctuate. It can be helpful to have a fan in the room and an extra blanket then they can go between both if they need to.  A lamp can also be a mental signal to the brain that it is getting near to sleep time. Weighted bedding can also be helpful in alleviating anxiety.  Feeling at peace with the family also is part of a calm environment, which means they are never to old or mad for that good night hug, pat, kiss, smile, “I love you”. 

In the morning open blinds and curtains to help your teen wake up. In winter turn on a bedside lamp prior to putting on the room light.

  • Adjusting screen time

Our teens are the first generation to also be connected 24hours a day digitally. Aim to be screen free the last 30 mins and let’s be honest that might mean just not taking a phone into the bathroom while they get ready for bed. Screen use can be exciting, stimulating, drive worry or leave a teen feeling like they are missing out, not exactly calming right? At the same time, there are many apps available for evening relaxation. Listening to white noise, music or a meditation maybe something your teen identifies as a positive to their electronic use. So having conversations with your teen about what they think is helping them fall asleep is important too. 

Use computer settings or download an app that will change the blue light of the device at night enabling the eyes to rest or consider buying glasses that have a filter on if your teen is doing schoolwork on a laptop for a lot of the evening.  You can also get a filter put on to prescription glasses now if your teen games a lot. Charging devices outside of the bedroom will reduce temptation and light levels at night.  

While all of the above seem simple on paper but unrealistic in life (especially when our teens have so much more autonomy the older they get. It is the day-to-day conversations and negotiations about their routine that will make the difference. 

For example, lead the conversations with reflective and genuine curiosity about what they consider their needs to be and the impact on their choices around going to bed and sleeping. Lead the conversation with “You are yawning, are you tired? How have you been sleeping lately? What do you think is causing that? What have you tried? What do you think will help?” 

This is also where role modelling comes in too. How are you looking after your own sleep? Is it a priority for you? What is impacting your sleep quality and what changes can you make, what works for you, what hinders your sleep? Being fully aware of your own sleep habits and actively taking steps to get quality sleep too, is just as important because let’s be honest our teens are not the only ones who are sleep deprived. What works for you? What sabotages your sleep and what do you do in these moments to reduce this. Then in your day-to-day conversations you can talk about your own experiences around sleep and how you have managed it. “I am leaving my phone downstairs tonight, I was mindlessly scrolling in bed and it just stops me going to sleep… I have no willpower” and laugh, give this information in a light genuine way. 

Not all information needs to be a sit-down conversation. In fact, the easiest way to lead our teens is to verbalise our own journey with getting enough sleep on both the days we do and the days we don’t. Openly stating how we slept the night before, why and the impact it had on our day.  

As our teens get older the most we can hope for is to be a positive influence for our teens on their sleep habits. Sharing information that is knowledge based and acting on that knowledge for ourself, may sometimes mean that as they get older we have to go to sleep ourselves before they have and while in the short term this may not feel ideal, it is a kindness to ourself and a very practical way of showing our teens the positive impacts of getting regular good night sleep. 

Raising great teens is committed to supporting you in parenting with knowledge, positive influence and kindness. If you enjoyed this article you will find more over at: https://raisinggreatteens.com/ or follow us on our social media pages on Insta and FB