Family Health

Seven Tips for Getting More Sleep: Teenager Edition

In terms of your health, sleep is just as important as food, water, and oxygen. It's probably not going to surprise you to learn that most teenagers aren't getting regular sleep. Research from the National Sleep Foundation shows that teens should get eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, yet only 15 percent are meeting this threshold.

Sleep has a big impact on all aspects of health, safety, and academic performance. Teen sleeping problems lead to a higher chance of physical and emotional issues, drowsy driving, and poor results at school. The problem is widespread: About one in four high school students say that they fall asleep at school at least once a week, while one in five nods off doing homework with the same frequency. Getting enough sleep is challenging for teens, whose natural sleep cycles cause them to feel awake later at night, making it hard to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Coupled with the early start times of most public high schools, it's no surprise that this problem arises.

Technology Interfering With Rest

Social activities, homework, after-school sports, and evening jobs all contribute to the rising teen sleeping deficit. Another factor is the steady stream of smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers. Whether it's for surfing the Web or playing a video game, electronic devices are a huge part of teens' daily lives. A recent study from BMJ showed that teens who use two to three devices each day are more likely to sleep for less than five hours compared to those who use just one gadget daily.

Learning Good Sleep Habits

Electronic devices and hectic schedules are a part of life for teens, but parents can still help them learn healthier sleeping habits. Try the following tips to help your teens get a better night's sleep:

  1. Talk to your teen about the benefits they'll see from getting regular sleep. They may make a joke out of it or roll their eyes, but they ARE listening. Keep up the conversation.
  2. Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time schedule that allows your teen to get eight to 10 hours of sleep on school nights and weekends.
  3. Have your teens turn off the TV, computer, and phone an hour before they go to bed.
  4. Encourage your teens to start a relaxing bedtime routine that includes reading, taking a warm shower or bath, or listening to music.
  5. Set up your teens' bedroom so that it's cool, dark, and quiet while also allowing bright light to enter the room in the morning.
  6. Urge your teens to cut out caffeine later in the day.
  7. Set a good example by making sleep a priority in your life and reducing your own use of electronics.

If you try these techniques and your teen still has sleep problems, speak to your doctor to rule out a medical cause such as insomnia or sleep apnea. A variety of treatments are available for both conditions.

If you don't have teens in the house, these tips may work for you too!

Posted in Family Health

Trained in medical marketing communications, New York City-based Jeffrey Young has been a health, science, and medicine writer for 15 years. He has also led content-development groups at two PR agencies and currently freelances for both corporate and academic clients, including Bayer, Covidien, Eli Lilly and Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., and Pfizer. Jeffrey's strengths include interpreting research findings and telling stories that resonate with the average health consumer or patient.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.